What Does Fail Mean?

Fail is an Internet slang term that is applied as a caption to a photograph or is stated in a response to a situation in which a person fails in some obvious way. It behaves in a negative sense or in a humorous way. This term has become a popular Internet meme. It is believed to have originated from the Japanese video game “Blazing Star,” which provided a message of “You fail it” when a person had failed to advance to the next level. The term is used as a standalone interjection, not a part of speech.


Fail may also be known as major fail, uber fail, massive fail or epic fail.

Techopedia Explains Fail

“Fail!” is exclaimed in response to a situation in which someone falls short of expectations in a significant way. For example, one widely circulated fail video showed a woman on a platform about to ride a rope swing into a lake. However, rather than landing in the water, she falls flat on her face in the grass. In 2008, the Cheezburger Network launched the Fail Blog, which compiles photos and video of user-submitted fails, which helped contribute to the spread of this online phenomenon.

The fail meme even spread beyond the Internet when a demonstrator held up a sign that read “FAIL” behind former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. during a Senate hearing on the financial crisis in September of 2008.Fail is also widely used as or included in hashtags on Twitter.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.