epic fail


noun Slang.

a spectacularly embarrassing or humorous mistake, humiliating situation, etc., that is subject to ridicule and given a greatly exaggerated importance.
a person who fails in this way: He thought he was being funny and charming, but no, he was an epic fail.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What else does epic fail mean?

When someone spectacularly messes up at something—especially little or simple things done or shared in public, like misspelling one’s own name on an official form or getting rejected for a kiss on the Jumbotron—people might joke about it as an epic fail.

How is epic fail pronounced?

[ep-ic feyl]

Where does epic fail come from?

An epic fail is a tremendous failure, with fail being a noun that actually dates back to the 1600s. The hyperbolic epic has been slang for anything “notable” since at least the 2000s.

Epic fail may be due to an epic fail of translation. A 1998 Japanese video game, Blazing Star, used the humorously clumsy You fail it! as a Game Over message. Fail it was shortened to fail in internet slang, especially among gamers on websites like SomethingAwful and 4chan, and came to signal any failure, big or small.

Fail was entered on Urban Dictionary by 2003, with epic fail emerging on internet message boards in 2007. By 2009, the term had gone mainstream: That year, the popular TV medical drama House had an episode called “Epic Fail,” featuring a video-game creator who crowdsources his medical treatments.

Trend data shows epic fail peaking in the mid-2010s, when it was widely captioning image macros of funny mishaps or titling video compilations of people bungling various efforts—content especially curated by Failblog, which launched in 2008. Satisfying successes, meanwhile, came to be called epic wins.

How is epic fail used in real life?

Fail is used as a one-word retort for any blunder or embarrassment. For example, if you told a friend that you wore a stained T-shirt to a job interview, they might reply: Fail.

An epic fail is reserved for a particularly cringeworthy, bewildering, or hilarious mistake or accident—often when someone or something screws up at its most basic level of functioning. Tripping over one’s feet while walking is a fail, but tripping over one’s feet while using a walker is an epic fail. 

More examples of epic fail:

“Attempt to demolish the Silverdome was an epic fail”
—Nick Cole, SEC Country (headline), December, 2017

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.