1. causing or capable of causing death; mortal; deadly: a fatal accident; a fatal dose of poison.
  2. causing destruction, misfortune, ruin, or failure: The withdrawal of funds was fatal to the project.
  3. decisively important; fateful: The fatal day finally arrived.
  4. proceeding from or decreed by fate; inevitable: a fatal series of events.
  5. influencing or concerned with fate; fatalistic.
  6. Obsolete. doomed.
  7. Obsolete. prophetic.

Origin of fatal

1350–1400; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin fātālis of fate. See fate, -al1
Related formsfa·tal·ness, nounnon·fa·tal, adjectivenon·fa·tal·ly, adverbnon·fa·tal·ness, nounqua·si-fa·tal, adjectivequa·si-fa·tal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedfatal fateful fetal (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for fatal

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.

Antonyms for fatal

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nonfatal

Contemporary Examples of nonfatal

Historical Examples of nonfatal

  • Apoplexy may be termed a general paralysis, and in nonfatal attacks is a frequent cause of the various forms of palsy.

    Special Report on Diseases of the Horse

    United States Department of Agriculture

British Dictionary definitions for nonfatal


  1. not resulting in or capable of causing death


  1. resulting in or capable of causing deatha fatal accident
  2. bringing ruin; disastrous
  3. decisively important; fateful
  4. decreed by fate; destined; inevitable

Word Origin for fatal

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

Word Origin and History for nonfatal



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

nonfatal in Medicine


  1. 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.