fail (v.)

c. 1200, "be unsuccessful in accomplishing a purpose;" also "cease to exist or to function, come to an end;" early 13c. as "fail in expectation or performance," from Old French falir "be lacking, miss, not succeed; run out, come to an end; err, make a mistake; be dying; let down, disappoint" (11c., Modern French faillir), from Vulgar Latin *fallire, from Latin fallere "to trip, cause to fall;" figuratively "to deceive, trick, dupe, cheat, elude; fail, be lacking or defective." De Vaan traces this to a PIE root meaning "to stumble" (source also of Sanskrit skhalate "to stumble, fail;" Middle Persian škarwidan "to stumble, stagger;" Greek sphallein "to bring or throw down," sphallomai "to fall;" Armenian sxalem "to stumble, fail"). If so, the Latin sense is a metaphorical shift from "stumble" to "deceive." Related: Failed; failing.

Replaced Old English abreoðan. From c. 1200 as "be unsuccessful in accomplishing a purpose;" also "cease to exist or to function, come to an end;" early 13c. as "fail in expectation or performance."

From mid-13c. of food, goods, etc., "to run short in supply, be used up;" from c. 1300 of crops, seeds, land. From c. 1300 of strength, spirits, courage, etc., "suffer loss of vigor; grow feeble;" from mid-14c. of persons. From late 14c. of material objects, "break down, go to pieces."

fail (n.)

late 13c., "failure, deficiency" (as in without fail), from Old French faile "deficiency," from falir (see fail (v.)). The Anglo-French form of the verb, failer, also came to be used as a noun, hence failure.

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Definitions of fail

fail (v.)
fail to do something; leave something undone;
The secretary failed to call the customer and the company lost the account
She failed to notice that her child was no longer in his crib
Synonyms: neglect
fail (v.)
be unsuccessful;
Where do today's public schools fail?
The attempt to rescue the hostages failed miserably
Synonyms: go wrong / miscarry
fail (v.)
disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake;
His strength finally failed him
His sense of smell failed him this time
His children failed him in the crisis
Synonyms: betray
fail (v.)
stop operating or functioning;
The engine failed on the way to town
Synonyms: go bad / give way / die / give out / conk out / go / break / break down
fail (v.)
be unable;
I fail to understand your motives
fail (v.)
judge unacceptable;
The teacher failed six students
fail (v.)
fail to get a passing grade;
Did I fail the test?
She studied hard but failed nevertheless
Synonyms: flunk / bomb / flush it
fail (v.)
fall short in what is expected;
She failed in her obligations as a good daughter-in-law
We must not fail his obligation to the victims of the Holocaust
fail (v.)
become bankrupt or insolvent; fail financially and close;
A number of banks failed that year
fail (v.)
prove insufficient;
The water supply for the town failed after a long drought
Synonyms: run out / give out
fail (v.)
get worse;