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[feyt-l] /ˈfeɪt l/
causing or capable of causing death; mortal; deadly:
a fatal accident; a fatal dose of poison.
causing destruction, misfortune, ruin, or failure:
The withdrawal of funds was fatal to the project.
decisively important; fateful:
The fatal day finally arrived.
proceeding from or decreed by fate; inevitable:
a fatal series of events.
influencing or concerned with fate; fatalistic.
Obsolete. doomed.
Obsolete. prophetic.
Origin of fatal
1350-1400; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin fātālis of fate. See fate, -al1
Related forms
fatalness, noun
nonfatal, adjective
nonfatally, adverb
nonfatalness, noun
quasi-fatal, adjective
quasi-fatally, adverb
Can be confused
fatal, fateful, fetal (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Fatal, deadly, lethal, mortal apply to something that has caused or is capable of causing death. Fatal may refer to either the future or the past; in either case, it emphasizes inevitability and the inescapable—the disastrous, whether death or dire misfortune: The accident was fatal. Such a mistake would be fatal. Deadly looks to the future, and suggests that which is likely to cause death (though not inevitably so): a deadly poison, disease. Like deadly, lethal looks to the future but, like many other words of Latin origin, suggests a more technical usage: a lethal dose; a gas that is lethal. Mortal looks to the past and refers to death that has actually occurred: He received a mortal wound. The disease proved to be mortal. 2. ruinous, disastrous, calamitous, catastrophic, devastating. 4. predestined, foreordained.
1. life-giving. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for fatal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was there and then this fatal epidemic first appeared in the United States.

  • With a rogue a mistake may easily be and almost always is fatal.

  • Such an idea is as fatal to society as we know it as a virus plague.

    Suite Mentale Gordon Randall Garrett
  • The admiration which they would attract would be fatal to them.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • But he regretted his violence and told her so, which was fatal, or so it seemed to me.

    Margarita's Soul Ingraham Lovell
British Dictionary definitions for fatal


resulting in or capable of causing death: a fatal accident
bringing ruin; disastrous
decisively important; fateful
decreed by fate; destined; inevitable
Word Origin
C14: from Old French fatal or Latin fātālis, from fātum, see fate
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
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Word Origin and History for fatal

late 14c., "decreed by fate," from Middle French fatal (14c.) and directly from Latin fatalis "ordained by fate," from fatum (see fate (n.)); sense of "causing death" is early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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fatal in Medicine

fatal fa·tal (fāt'l)
Causing or capable of causing death.

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