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day in, day out, every day without fail

A phrase used to describe something that happens routinely or regularly. Day in, day out, every day without fail, I pass that same woman walking her dog. My mom started driving us to school because we would miss the bus day in, day out, every day without fail.
See also: every, fail, without

epic fail

An especially big or embarrassing blunder. I can't believe I called the CEO by the wrong name! What an epic fail. I tried to bake a cake for my sister's birthday, but I accidentally used salt instead of sugar. Epic fail.
See also: epic, fail


1. An exclamation, perhaps of annoyance or frustration, when something has gone wrong. I called him Mark, but apparently his name is Steven. Ugh, fail! I tried to bake a cake for my sister's birthday, but I accidentally used salt instead of sugar. Fail.
2. noun A mistake or blunder. Something that has gone wrong. I called him Mark, but apparently his name is Steven! What a fail. I tried to bake a cake for my sister's birthday, but I accidentally used salt instead of sugar, and it was a big fail.

fail (someone) on (something)

To give someone a failing grade on a school assignment. You clearly put zero effort into this essay—that's why I failed you on it.
See also: fail, on

fail at life

slang To fail in a way that is exaggeratedly likened to one's entire life being a failure. I can't believe I blew my audition! Ugh, I fail at life. I overheard you struggling to ask Kim to the prom, and, yeah, you fail at life, dude.
See also: fail, life

fail in (something)

1. To not have high enough grades to pass a particular class. My parents got my report card and grounded me because I'm failing in two classes.
2. To not award a student a passing grade in a particular class. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "fail" and "in." I failed you in biology because you missed so many classes this semester.
3. To not be successful in an attempt to do something. So far, I've failed in my efforts to find an internship for the summer.
See also: fail

fail of success

To not reach a goal or accomplishment. I know you worked hard on the fundraiser, so I'm really sorry to hear that you failed of success. After not making the team last year, I'm really hoping I don't fail of success this time around.
See also: fail, of, success

fail out

To have to leave a school or university because one does not have passing grades. One B won't kill you—it's not like you're going to fail out of college or something.
See also: fail, out

fail the smell test

To be morally questionable, unacceptable, or untrustworthy. The new pro-drilling bill that's being put through Congress certainly fails the smell test, and many are suspicious that Big Oil has been responsible for its inception.
See also: fail, smell, test

fail to see

To be incapable of understanding or unwilling to accept something. Mary, I fail to see what your fear of spiders has to do with your unwillingness to go on this trip. Congressman, I fail to see how your opponent, as you claim, is in any way responsible for the economic slump in your state.
See also: fail, see

fall at the final hurdle

To fail to accomplish some task or goal at the very end of the attempt. Negotiations between the two warring countries fell at the final hurdle due to disagreements over cross-border taxation.
See also: fall, final, hurdle

fall at the first hurdle

To fail to accomplish some task or goal at the very beginning of the attempt. John had his business plan all laid out, but he fell at the first hurdle when the bank refused to grant him a loan.
See also: fall, first, hurdle

fall at the last hurdle

To fail to accomplish some task or goal at the very end of the attempt. Negotiations between the two warring countries fell at the last hurdle due to disagreements over cross-border taxation.
See also: fall, hurdle, last

if all else fails

If all other options and plans are unsuccessful. The phrase is used to indicate what the last resort will be. If all else fails, we can always order pizza. A: "Will we have to do it manually?" B: "Only if all else fails."
See also: all, else, fail, if

never fails

Is always effective; always does what's desired or intended. If none of these things resolve the issue, turning your computer on and off again never fails. I'm telling you, drink this—it never fails to get rid of a hangover.
See also: fail, never

red-face test

A hypothetical test meant to measure whether or not some question or thing provokes discernible embarrassment, discomfiture, or displeasure in a person. The old red-face test is a simple but subtle way of telling which employees are the most honest and work the hardest. Well, my proposal didn't pass the red-face test with the boss. I guess we can kiss that idea goodbye.
See also: test

without fail

Said of something that happens regularly and predictably with no deviations. I have passed the same woman walking her dog every day without fail for five years—but today she wasn't there. I'm really worried about her!
See also: fail, without

words fail me

I'm unable to articulate or express myself because I'm too surprised, upset, or intensely emotional. I wish I could convey how much it means to me having you all here, but words fail me at the moment. And to think that you would risk your whole future by drinking and then getting behind the wheel of a car—well, words fail me!
See also: fail, word

fail in something

to have not earned passing or satisfactory grades in some school subject. George is failing in geometry. I hope I do not fail in math.
See also: fail

fail someone on something

to give someone an unsatisfactory grade on an assignment or test. She failed us all on the math assignment. The teacher failed half the class on the assignment.
See also: fail, on

something never fails

a particular thing always works. My old folk remedy for hiccups never fails.
See also: fail, never

without fail

for certain; absolutely. I'll be there at noon without fail. The plane leaves on time every day without fail.
See also: fail, without

without fail

For certain, as in That check will arrive tomorrow morning without fail. This idiom today is used mainly to strengthen a statement. [Early 1700s]
See also: fail, without

words fail me

I can't put my thoughts or feelings into words, especially because of surprise or shock, as in When she showed up at the wedding with all three ex-husbands-well, words fail me. [Second half of 1900s]
See also: fail, word

without fail

absolutely predictably; with no exception or cause for doubt.
Fail as a noun in the sense of ‘failure or deficiency’ is now only found in this phrase.
See also: fail, without

if all else ˈfails

(spoken) used to introduce an idea or a suggestion that you could try if nothing else works: Let’s try phoning her at this number and then emailing her. If all else fails, we can always contact her parents.
See also: all, else, fail, if

without ˈfail

used for emphasizing that something always happens or must happen: She sends me a Christmas card every year without fail.You must be here by 8.30 without fail.
See also: fail, without

words ˈfail me

I cannot express how I feel (because I am too surprised, angry, etc.): Words fail me! How could you have been so stupid?
See also: fail, word

fail in

1. To fail to achieve some goal or effort: I am failing in all of my attempts to win the contest.
2. To achieve unsatisfactory grades in an academic subject: Because I am failing in math, I am seeing a tutor.
3. To give someone an unsatisfactory grade in an academic subject: My teacher failed me in algebra despite my hard work.
See also: fail

fail out

To be forced to leave an academic institution because of unsatisfactory grades: My cousin is failing out of law school.
See also: fail, out

without fail

With no chance of failure: Be here at noon without fail.
See also: fail, without

words fail me

An expression of surprise or shock, uttered when one does not know what to say: for example, “On their wedding day, she went to have breakfast with both of her former husbands—well, words fail me!” It dates from the second half of the twentieth century.
See also: fail, word
References in periodicals archive ?
Nonetheless, Respondent failed to file an answer within the 20-day period or thereafter.
During the rebuild process of the first failed drive, the likelihood of a second drive having an error or failing completely increases exponentially with both the size of the hard drives and the total capacity of the logical drive.
Data is nonvolatile so data won't be lost if the capacitor fails.
* Fails to disclose the effects of material market or economic conditions on the results portrayed.
* In fall 2002, students in schools that have failed for a second year to meet the improvement provisions of the prior law will have the option of leaving the failing school and enrolling in a different public school in the district.
He wanted to allow children in schools that failed to close the achievement gap for three straight years to use federal money to attend private schools.
A merger of equals fails almost twice as often as an acquisition of a small company by a large company.
A single penalty will apply to a taxpayer that fails to (1) attach Form 8886 to an original or amended return and (2) provide a copy of Form 8886 to the OTSA.
It combines striping (distributing data across several drives) with a series of codes (parity) that allows operations to continue with no data loss by using parity coding if a single drive fails. Its cost is simply the price of an additional drive to compensate for the computed parity information.
One aspect of the potential problem is clear: When a bank fails, the ability of its depositors to make payments from their accounts would be severely limited were it not for government intervention designed to maintain the liquidity of insured, and sometimes uninsured, balances.
6707A penalty will not be imposed until the taxpayer fails to provide the required disclosure statement with an original or amended return, or a copy to the OTSA, if applicable, even if it files the return after the due date.
In this ideal world, product A might have known reliability such that it fails precisely once every two years while product B fails every three years.
The penalty applies to a material advisor who fails to maintain a list, maintains an incomplete list or has maintained a list but does not make it available to Treasury.
If that single disk channel card fails, then all of its connected disks are lost as well!
98-55 if (1) a corporation fails to qualify as an S corporation on the first day that S status was desired solely because the S election was not timely filed, (2) the due date (excluding extensions) for the first year the corporation intended to be an S corporation has not passed and (3) the corporation has reasonable cause for the failure to timely file the S election.