Malfunction definition

Meaning of malfunction in English

If it starts to malfunction before you break it, then you did not make a perfect toaster, you made a flawed toaster.

From CNN

The spacecraft suffered a major malfunction after reaching orbit and is falling from space.


As a ghost, you can do things that get the attention of the living, like making objects malfunction.

From VentureBeat

Cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, failing eyesight and kidney malfunction are other conditions elderly animals share with their human counterparts.

From Chicago Tribune

Sorry -- there wa a malfunction and was unable to finish my sentence.

From CNN

Pre-election fears of malfunctioning machines scuppering the vote now seem overblown.


Just completed its 100,000 maintenance 2 months ago and is in complete and perfect condition with only the driver being the malfunction.

From Ars Technica

So far there are no methods to test complex web 2.0 applications systematically and at low cost for malfunctions and security vulnerabilities.

From Phys.Org

Occasionally, the robots slightly malfunction and push out a couple of empty cups or experience a little spillage.

From New York Daily News

It's believed that the landing gear may have malfunctioned.

From Gizmodo

At the outset of the game, the colony is in shambles, with crumbling buildings and malfunctioning technology.

From The Verge

This is a neurological disorder, the brain is malfunctioning because of faulty wiring.

From CNN

Another bit of evidence suggests that fears rather than malfunctions drive at least some of the complaints.

From San Francisco Chronicle

These examples are from corpora and from sources on the web. Any opinions in the examples do not represent the opinion of the Cambridge Dictionary editors or of Cambridge University Press or its licensors.



This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.

[ mal-fuhngk-shuhn ]

/ mælˈfʌŋk ʃən /


failure to function properly: a malfunction of the liver; the malfunction of a rocket.

verb (used without object)

to fail to function properly.



We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.

Question 1 of 8

Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?

Origin of malfunction

First recorded in 1925–30; mal- + function

Words nearby malfunction

malevolence, malevolent, malfeasance, malformation, malformed, malfunction, Malgaigne's luxation, malgré lui, Malherbe, Malherbe's calcifying epithelioma, Mali Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

How to use malfunction in a sentence

  • Voters in six counties used the machines during local elections last fall, and the state used the machines for its primaries, but both of those pilots had some equipment malfunctions, and many Georgians have yet to use the machines.

    Technical Difficulties On Election Day Won’t Mean Democracy Is Over|Kaleigh Rogers ([email protected])|October 27, 2020|FiveThirtyEight

  • It’s not uncommon for drones to malfunction or collide with other objects, including airplanes.

    Drone Test Flight Moved Out of San Diego Following Safety Concerns|Jesse Marx|October 26, 2020|Voice of San Diego

  • These are sensors on the key components of the truck that can predict when a malfunction is likely to occur.

    France’s new military trucks can form a convoy with just one driver|Christina Mackenzie|October 19, 2020|Popular-Science

  • By targeting precincts where most people vote for a particular candidate or party, a hacker could potentially swing a close election just by triggering malfunctions in electronic poll books.

    How Internet-connected voter check-in devices can create election chaos|Timothy B. Lee|September 29, 2020|Ars Technica

  • Boeing and regulators had approved the design under the assumption that flight crews could recognize and override a malfunction of the system within a few seconds.

    Boeing crashes were the “horrific culmination” of multiple mistakes, House report says|kdunn6|September 16, 2020|Fortune

  • Harry appeared to tease his blond friend after the wardrobe malfunction was spotted.

    Butt-Flashing? Don't Worry, My Sister-in-Law Kate Middleton Does That All The Time!!|Tom Sykes|June 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • The Queen, who has lead weights sewn into her dress, would never let such a wardrobe malfunction occurr.

    Pictures Of Kate Middleton's Bare Butt Published in German Newspaper|Tom Sykes|May 27, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • From Beyoncé and Paul McCartney to the most famous wardrobe malfunction on live television, see the best performances.

    The Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows|Marina Watts|February 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • He might have kept shooting, but his rifle had what police term “a malfunction of some sort.”

    Newtown's Heartbreaking Final Report|Michael Daly|December 28, 2013|DAILY BEAST

  • During the Emmys she had this wardrobe malfunction where her ass came out of her dress and he got slammed for not helping her.

    Sofia Vergara’s Fiancé, Nicholas Loeb, Just Can’t Catch A Break|Tricia Romano|January 8, 2013|DAILY BEAST

  • Mechanical class, including malfunction of Hegler units and such.

    No Moving Parts|Murray F. Yaco

  • VT672, had an unexplained malfunction and was left behind to be repaired by the slave technicians who followed the Horde.

    The Reluctant Weapon|Howard L. Myers

  • Naturally—it would have to follow its own solution, if there was no indication of malfunction.

    Way of a Rebel|Walter M. Miller

  • His own malfunction-indicator wasn't telling him much either.

    Way of a Rebel|Walter M. Miller

  • If it's just a malfunction in one of the units, I can dump another one down there.

    The Thirst Quenchers|Rick Raphael

British Dictionary definitions for malfunction



(intr)to function imperfectly or irregularly or fail to function


failure to function or defective functioning

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for malfunction



To fail to function.

To function improperly.


Failure to function.

Faulty or abnormal functioning.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Look up a word, learn it forever.

To malfunction is to fail to work properly. If your toaster spits out a charred, smoky mess no matter what setting it’s on, your toaster is definitely malfunctioning.

When something functions, it works. Adding the prefix -mal (meaning "bad") to function indicates bad or unsuccessful functioning. When a computer malfunctions, you could lose your data. A malfunctioning car could cause an accident or leave you stranded. This word is typically used in reference to technology, tools, and gadgets. However, if you make a stupid mistake, you might joke that your brain has malfunctioned.

Definitions of malfunction

  1. verb

    fail to function or function improperly

    “the coffee maker malfunctioned

    see moresee less
    function, go, operate, run, work

    perform as expected when applied


    be operating, running or functioning


    operate in or through

    show more antonyms...

    get stuck and immobilized

    type of:
    break, break down, conk out, die, fail, give out, give way, go, go bad

    stop operating or functioning

  2. noun

    a failure to function normally
    see moresee less

    a sudden malfunction of a part or apparatus


    a malfunction in the flight of an aircraft in which there is a sudden loss of lift that results in a downward plunge


    a failure to sustain social norms or expected conditions

    type of:

    an event that does not accomplish its intended purpose



Definition malfunction



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