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Fail vs flunk

Fail means to not succeed, to fall short of one’s goal. Fail may mean to not earn a passing grade in an academic class or on a test, or to give a non-passing grade in an academic class or on a test. Fail may also mean to neglect to do one’s duty or live up to one’s responsibility, or it may indicate something not operating correctly or something broken.  Fail is a verb, related words are fails, failed, failing, failure. Fail comes from the Old French word falir which means to be lacking, to miss, to not succeed, to disappoint. Fail is one of the top one thousand most frequently used words according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Flunk is an American word which means to not earn a passing grade in an academic class or on a test, or to give a non-passing grade in an academic class or on a test. Flunk is a verb, related words are flunks, flunked, flunking. Flunk is first used in 1823 as American college slang, thought to be a transliteration of the British university slang funk, which means to be frightened, shrink from.


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Examples

Americans and Europeans found when their banks crashed in 2008 they were ‘‘too big to fail”. (The Otago Daily Times)

Research shows that if your goal is to avoid failure, you’ll actually increase the chances that you’re going to fail. (Forbes Magazine)

An effective entrepreneur will reach a point at which the possibilities of success are so remote that a collapse of a business is a better outcome and find a way to fail upward. (The Washington Post)

Conservative columnist George Will called him “a presidential aspirant who would flunk an eighth-grade civics exam.” (The Charleston Gazette-Mail)

Students who flunk Regents exams would still be able to graduate high school under a plan proposed Monday by the state Education Department. (The New York Post)

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