1. a defect or imperfection; flaw; failing: a fault in the brakes; a fault in one’s character.
  2. responsibility for failure or a wrongful act: It is my fault that we have not finished.
  3. an error or mistake: a fault in addition.
  4. a misdeed or transgression: to confess one’s faults.
  5. Sports. (in tennis, handball, etc.)
    1. a ball that when served does not land in the proper section of an opponent’s court.
    2. a failure to serve the ball according to the rules, as from within a certain area.
  6. Geology, Mining. a break in the continuity of a body of rock or of a vein, with dislocation along the plane of the fracture (fault plane).
  7. Manège. (of a horse jumping in a show) any of a number of improper executions in negotiating a jump, as a tick, knockdown, refusal, or run-out.
  8. Electricity. a partial or total local failure in the insulation or continuity of a conductor or in the functioning of an electric system.
  9. Hunting. a break in the line of scent; a losing of the scent; check.
  10. Obsolete. lack; want.

verb (used without object)

  1. to commit a fault; blunder; err.
  2. Geology. to undergo faulting.

verb (used with object)

  1. Geology. to cause a fault in.
  2. to find fault with, blame, or censure.

  1. at fault,
    1. open to censure; blameworthy: to be at fault for a mistake.
    2. in a dilemma; puzzled: to be at fault as to where to go.
    3. (of hounds) unable to find the scent.
  2. find fault, to seek and make known defects or flaws; complain; criticize: He constantly found fault with my behavior.
  3. to a fault, to an extreme degree; excessively: She was generous to a fault.


  1. an imperfection; failing or defect; flaw
  2. a mistake or error
  3. an offence; misdeed
  4. responsibility for a mistake or misdeed; culpability
  5. electronics a defect in a circuit, component, or line, such as a short circuit
  6. geology a fracture in the earth’s crust resulting in the relative displacement and loss of continuity of the rocks on either side of it
  7. tennis squash badminton an invalid serve, such as one that lands outside a prescribed area
  8. (in showjumping) a penalty mark given for failing to clear or refusing a fence, exceeding a time limit, etc
  9. hunting an instance of the hounds losing the scent
  10. deficiency; lack; want
  11. at fault
    1. guilty of error; culpable
    2. perplexed
    3. (of hounds) having temporarily lost the scent
  12. find fault to seek out minor imperfections or errors (in); carp (at)
  13. to a fault excessively


  1. geology to undergo or cause to undergo a fault
  2. (tr) to find a fault in, criticize, or blame
  3. (intr) to commit a fault

late 13c., faute, “deficiency,” from Old French faute (12c.) “opening, gap; failure, flaw, blemish; lack, deficiency,” from Vulgar Latin *fallita “a shortcoming, falling,” noun use of fem. past participle, from Latin falsus “deceptive, feigned, spurious,” past participle of fallere “deceive, disappoint” (see fail).

The -l- was restored 16c., probably in imitation of Latin, but was not pronounced till 18c. Sense of “physical defect” is from early 14c.; that of “moral culpability” is first recorded late 14c. Geological sense is from 1796. The use in tennis (c.1600) is closer to the etymological sense.


late 14c., Scottish, “be deficient;” see fault (n.). Meaning “find fault with” is from mid-15c. Related: Faulted; faulter; faulting.

  1. A fracture in a rock formation along which there has been movement of the blocks of rock on either side of the plane of fracture. Faults are caused by plate-tectonic forces. See more at normal fault reverse fault strike-slip fault thrust fault transform fault. See Note at earthquake.

In geology, a place where sections of the crust of the Earth move relative to each other. (See earthquake and San Andreas fault.)

see at fault; find fault; to a fault.

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