Definition of flunk in US English:



[with object]North American
  • 1Fail to reach the required standard in (an examination, test, or course of study)

    ‘I flunked biology in the tenth grade’
    no object ‘I didn't flunk but I didn't do too well’
    • ‘However, it flunks the main test of any scientific theory: The ability to make empirically testable predictions.’
    • ‘And no matter how high they set the price, you were going to buy one copy because otherwise you'd flunk the course.’
    • ‘Well, apparently as John said and we've heard on other reports, he had refused to pay any court costs and he had flunked a drug test while he was on probation.’
    • ‘The investigation thus far flunks the smell test.’
    • ‘If he flunks the test, the letter of credit is dissolved.’
    • ‘Yeah, but on the other hand, have you ever heard of a Winter Olympic athlete getting a medal revoked for flunking a steroid test?’
    • ‘But his escape to the sun has been thwarted because he has again flunked his driving test.’
    • ‘One false step - like failing to pay fees or flunking a course - and they can be shown the door.’
    • ‘Insofar as such writers flunk the tests laid out by textbook publishers, they risk slipping quietly out of circulation.’
    • ‘The sense that you fell in love just yesterday but that you flunked your driver's test in a former life is a natural and surprisingly universal temporal distortion that helps one maintain a positive self-image.’
    • ‘We presume that the baggage handlers and screeners flunked the test.’
    • ‘When Gaitan joined the National Guard, Ramos tried to enlist too but flunked the entry test twice.’
    • ‘So far, however, the bloggers are flunking the journalism test.’
    • ‘When it comes to simple arithmetic, involving trillions of dollars of workers' Social Security money, the privatizers flunk the test.’
    • ‘If something is legal but flunks the smell test, do not do it.’
    • ‘The dog flunked the test, the suitcase went skittling down the conveyor belt, and it was apparently loaded onto a plane destined for parts unknown.’
    • ‘The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Tuesday that Young, who flunked a steroid test in 1999, should have been ineligible for the Sydney Games.’
    • ‘I was the mountaineer, I was the one living in the mountains - and I was the one who flunked this test.’
    • ‘‘If you're talking about an elite, wealthy athlete,’ he says, ‘they'll go to people like me to make sure they don't flunk drug tests.’’
    • ‘I would sooner or later flunk my tests and exams.’
    be unsuccessful in, not pass
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Judge (a student or examination candidate) to have failed to reach the required standard.
      ‘the teacher flunked thirteen third-graders’
      • ‘I tell Rufus McClure about this and he chuckles, ‘Many an English teacher would flunk Hemingway.’’
      • ‘English teacher Mr. Bates seems to flunk her for very suspect reasons.’
      • ‘No teacher can ever flunk a student on the basis of personal dislike.’
      • ‘My teacher phoned me and threatened to flunk me if I didn't go to class.’
      • ‘For outbursts like these, Ed's teachers eventually flunked him, so he hauled up to Johannesburg and trained as an industrial radiographer, testing welds in an oil refinery.’
      • ‘‘I hope Boarst flunks her and she gets kicked out,’ Lauren muttered under her breath.’
      • ‘I'm sure that's just one of the many they ask - and you won't be automatically flunked for saying you have never touched a stirring spoon.’
      • ‘And also, I think, look, people sue because the teachers flunk their kids.’
      • ‘So the teacher said - the English teacher said she would flunk me if I didn't take drama, because she thought I had to overcome my shyness.’
    2. 1.2flunk outno object (of a student) leave or be dismissed from school or college as a result of failing to reach the required standard.
      ‘he had flunked out of college’
      • ‘After his return, Salinger made his second try at college, having flunked out of New York University a few years earlier.’
      • ‘I strayed instead into the less elegant world of pinochle, an addiction that almost caused me to flunk out of college.’
      • ‘A student who was flunking out of school, he insisted the shootings were not about revenge.’
      • ‘And one student who flunked out after spending too much time on the Internet did return last September.’
      • ‘At Harvard, back during the era when more than half of all alumni sons were admitted, those special admittees were disproportionately represented among students who flunked out.’
      • ‘He flunked out of college a number of times before settling down at a Baptist college in Mississippi.’
      • ‘After driving across America with two girlfriends in the summer of 1964, Judee flunked out of college.’
      • ‘With the days of free-flowing grants long behind us, we need sound saving plans to ensure that our children don't financially flunk out of college.’
      • ‘A statement of fact: if the Web had existed when I was in college, I'd have flunked out.’
      • ‘And anyways, if I flunk out of high school and no colleges accept me, at least I will already be trained in asking, ‘Do you want fries with that?’’
      • ‘He took a moment, calculating his words, then finally said, ‘I managed to flunk out of college.’’
      • ‘Students who flunk out because they study too little - or drink too much - frequently return to school and get degrees.’
      • ‘If only Roberts were a failure, he would better understand the masses (the ones Cohen understands so well because he flunked out of college).’
      • ‘Many students flunked out of college trying to get edit decision lists to play on their roommate's computer.’
      • ‘No, I'm just worried that my best student might be flunking out of school.’
      • ‘The school also required Alison talk to each teacher individually to specifically explain why she was flunking out in the Spring of 2000.’
      • ‘I've seen many students spend too much time partying and flunk out, but I've also seen many of them sacrifice a lot of fun times and a lot of personal growth for a snatching grab at the dean's list.’
      • ‘If a college player is in danger of flunking out and has nothing to fall back on, that situation is more important than dealing with a multimillionaire who is pouting because he wants a contract extension.’
      • ‘He had wandered around after graduating high school, and after flunking out of college, he discovered white supremacy.’
      • ‘She revealed that her husband was not supportive of her attending college and had predicted she would flunk out.’


Early 19th century (in the general sense ‘back down, fail utterly’; originally US): perhaps related to funk or to US flink ‘be a coward’, perhaps a variant of flinch.