AskDefine | Define failure

Dictionary Definition

failure

Noun

1 an act that fails; "his failure to pass the test"
2 an event that does not accomplish its intended purpose; "the surprise party was a complete failure" [ant: success]
3 lack of success; "he felt that his entire life had been a failure"; "that year there was a crop failure" [ant: success]
4 a person with a record of failing; someone who loses consistently [syn: loser, nonstarter, unsuccessful person] [ant: achiever]
5 an unexpected omission; "he resented my failure to return his call"; "the mechanic's failure to check the brakes"
6 inability to discharge all your debts as they come due; "the company had to declare bankruptcy"; "fraudulent loans led to the failure of many banks" [syn: bankruptcy]
7 loss of ability to function normally; "kidney failure"

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Etymology

From failer, from faillir.

Noun

  1. State or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, opposite of success.
  2. An object, person or endeavour in a state of failure or incapable of success.
  3. Termination of the ability of an item to perform its required function.

Translations

state of condition opposite success
object or person incapable of success
termination of the ability of an item to perform its required function
  • Dutch: mislukking

Extensive Definition

Failure (fail, phail or flop) in general refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It may be viewed as the opposite of success. Product failure ranges from failure to sell the product to fracture of the product, in the worst cases leading to personal injury, the province of forensic engineering.

Criteria for failure

The criteria for failure are heavily dependent on context of use, and may be relative to a particular observer or belief system. A situation considered to be a failure by one might be considered a success by another, particularly in cases of direct competition or a zero-sum game. As well, the degree of success or failure in a situation may be differently viewed by distinct observers or participants, such that a situation that one considers to be a failure, another might consider to be a success, a qualified success or a neutral situation.
It may also be difficult or impossible to ascertain whether a situation meets criteria for failure or success due to ambiguous or ill-defined definition of those criteria. Finding useful and effective criteria, or heuristics, to judge the success or failure of a situation may itself be a significant task.

Types of failure

Failure can be differentially perceived from the viewpoints of the evaluators. A person who is only interested in the final outcome of an activity would consider it to be an Outcome Failure if the core issue has not been resolved or a core need is not met. A failure can also be a process failure whereby although the activity is completed successfully, a person may still feel dissatisfied if the underlying process is perceived to be below expected standard or benchmark.
  1. Failure to anticipate
  2. Failure to perceive

Commercial failures

A commercial failure is a product that does not reach expectations of success, failing to come even close. A major flop goes one step further and is recognized for its complete lack of success.
Most of the items listed below had high expectations, significant financial investments, and/or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations", there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop."

Fail internet meme

"Fail" is the name of a popular internet meme where users superimpose the word "fail" onto embarrassing or compromising photos. The G4 television channel has a web feature called "Epic Fail" that denotes major gaffs in popular culture - a mainstream play on the meme. Fail Dogs, an animal version, made the front page of Digg in February, 2008.

References

  • Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, New Tork: Basic Books, 1983. Paperback reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-691-00412-9
  • Sandage, Scott A. Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-674-01510-X, ISBN 0-674-02107-X
failure in German: Betriebsstörung
failure in Hebrew: כישלון
failure in Italian: Guasto
failure in Japanese: 故障
failure in Portuguese: Fracasso

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Grand Guignol, Passion play, Sisyphean labor, Tom show, Waterloo, also-ran, antimasque, arrear, arrearage, arrears, atrocity, audience success, bad habit, bafflement, balk, ballet, bankrupt, bankruptcy, baseness, beating, besetting sin, betrayed hope, blasted expectation, blemish, blighted hope, blow, bomb, bootlessness, botch, bouncing check, breach, breakdown, broadcast drama, buffet, bug, burlesque show, bust, catch, charade, clerical error, cliff hanger, closet drama, collapse, comedown, comedy drama, conquering, conquest, corrigendum, counterproductiveness, counterproductivity, crack, crash, crime, crime against humanity, critical success, cruel disappointment, culpa, culpable negligence, dash, dashed hope, daytime serial, dead duck, deadly sin, dearth, deathblow, debacle, debasement, debilitation, decadence, decadency, decay, declension, declination, decline, defalcation, default, defeat, defect, defection, defectiveness, deficiency, deficit, deformation, degeneracy, degenerateness, degeneration, degradation, delinquency, demotion, depravation, depravedness, depreciation, dereliction, derogation, descent, destruction, deterioration, devolution, dialogue, disappointment, discomfiture, disconformity, discontinuance, disillusionment, disregard, dissatisfaction, documentary drama, downfall, downtrend, downturn, downward mobility, downward trend, drama, dramalogue, dramatic play, dramatic series, drawback, drop, drubbing, dud, duodrama, duologue, dying, ebb, ebbing, effeteness, endless task, enfeeblement, enormity, epic theater, erratum, error, evil, exhaustion, experimental theater, extravaganza, fading, failing, failure of nerve, fall, fallen countenance, falling short, falling-off, false alarm, fatuity, fault, faute, felony, fewness, fiasco, fizzle, flagging, flaw, flop, foible, foiling, folding, forlorn hope, frailty, frustration, futility, gasser, genocide, giveaway, guilty act, happening, hash, heavy sin, hiding, hit, hit show, hole, hope deferred, human error, imperfection, impropriety, improvisational drama, inadequacy, inadvertence, inadvertency, inanity, inattention, incompetence, incompetent, indifference, indiscretion, ineffectiveness, ineffectuality, ineffectualness, inefficaciousness, inefficacy, inexecution, inexpiable sin, inferiority, infirmity, iniquity, injury, injustice, inobservance, insolvency, insolvent, insolvent debtor, insufficiency, insufficient funds, invalidity, involution, kink, kited check, laches, lack, laissez-faire, lambasting, lame duck, lapse, lathering, laxity, laxness, legitimate drama, lemon, letdown, licking, little problem, littleness, loose ends, looseness, loser, loss, loss of tone, maladroitness, malefaction, malfeasance, malum, masque, mastery, meagerness, meanness, mediocrity, melodrama, minor wrong, minstrel show, miracle, miracle play, mirage, misapprehension, miscalculation, miscarriage, misconception, miscount, misdeal, misdeed, misdemeanor, misfeasance, misidentification, misjudgment, misplay, misprint, misquotation, misreport, miss, misstatement, mistake, misunderstanding, misuse, monodrama, monologue, moral flaw, morality, morality play, mortal sin, muddle, music drama, musical revue, mystery, mystery play, neglect, neglectfulness, negligence, no go, nonaccomplishment, nonachievement, nonadherence, noncompliance, nonconformance, nonconformity, nonconsummation, nondischarging, nonentity, nonexecution, nonfeasance, nonfulfillment, noninterference, nonobservance, nonperformance, nonrestriction, nonsuccess, offense, omission, opera, outrage, overcoming, overdraft, overdrawn account, overlooking, oversight, overthrow, overturn, pageant, panel show, pantomime, pastoral, pastoral drama, paucity, peccadillo, peccancy, permissiveness, pettiness, piece, play, playlet, poor stewardship, poorness, problem, problem play, procrastination, psychodrama, quietus, quiz show, radio drama, receivership, regression, remissness, retrocession, retrogradation, retrogression, review, revue, rift, rough edges, ruin, scantiness, sensational play, serial, setback, shabbiness, short measure, shortage, shortcoming, shortfall, show, sin, sin of commission, sin of omission, sinful act, sitcom, situation comedy, sketch, skimpiness, skit, slackness, slight, slip, slippage, slump, smallness, smash, snag, soap, soap opera, sociodrama, something missing, sore disappointment, spectacle, stage play, stage show, straight drama, subdual, subduing, subjugation, subnormality, success, suspense drama, tableau, tableau vivant, taint, talk show, tantalization, tease, teleplay, television drama, television play, theater of cruelty, thrashing, tort, total theater, transgression, trespass, trimming, trip, triviality, trouncing, typo, typographical error, unconcern, underage, undoing, unfulfillment, unobservance, unrigorousness, unskillfulness, unsuccess, unsuccessfulness, unutterable sin, uselessness, vanquishment, variety show, vaudeville, vaudeville show, vehicle, venial sin, vice, vulgarity, vulnerable place, wane, waning, washout, weak link, weak point, weak side, weakness, whipping, word-of-mouth success, work, work of Penelope, wrong
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