Definition of lapse in US English:



  • 1A temporary failure of concentration, memory, or judgment.

    ‘a lapse of concentration in the second set cost her the match’
    • ‘Things can go wrong with the rope, and there can be a lapse of concentration.’
    • ‘His brief lapse in concentration costs him a nick across the chest.’
    • ‘Because of my lapse of memory this morning and the resultant disappointment of having to get up, I have a plan.’
    • ‘This lead to the lapse of judgement involved in ordering the uber-drinks.’
    • ‘The groom may simply have had a temporary lapse of sanity, and he may realize his error in a few months or years.’
    • ‘I didn't think that game was going to be a draw, and it would have been criminal had we drawn tonight and gone out because of a silly lapse of concentration.’
    • ‘Thus it was all the more unfortunate when the movement was interrupted by a memory lapse that necessitated a brief conference at the podium between soloist and conductor.’
    • ‘Another problem with skimping on sleep is lack of concentration and lapses in memory.’
    • ‘Even a brief lapse of alertness constitutes gross negligence.’
    • ‘This has got to be a temporary lapse in judgement, like a lost weekend at a Big Ten college.’
    • ‘Had they not suffered a costly lapse of concentration just two minutes from time then City could now be looking forward to a midweek trek to South Wales for a replay.’
    • ‘An inquest heard how a momentary lapse of concentration may have caused a crash that killed three members of one family.’
    • ‘If whatever drove him off the road - a blow - out, a lapse of concentration, it is still unexplained - had occurred a few seconds earlier he might have come to a stop in the field.’
    • ‘He doesn't lose his cool as much as he used to, although he is prone to the occasional lapse of concentration after letting in a bad goal.’
    • ‘Rather, there is usually a memory lapse of hours or days.’
    • ‘People with Huntington's find they have a lack of concentration, short-term memory lapses and problems with orientation.’
    • ‘And he said drink played a significant role in his lapse of judgement.’
    • ‘She stopped in her tracks and rose onto her toes, trying to see through the people, cursing her lapse of concentration.’
    • ‘‘It would appear the cause of this accident was perhaps a momentary lapse of concentration, perhaps, by the defendant,’ he said.’
    • ‘If you don't discover your terrible lapse of memory until the day after, throw even more money at the problem.’
    failure, failing, slip, error, mistake, blunder, fault, omission, oversight, negligence, dereliction
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A weak or careless decline from previously high standards.
      ‘tracing his lapse into petty crime’
      • ‘There also seems to be a reluctance to subject judges to the vigorous criticism to which other public figures are exposed for comparable lapses from proper standards of reasoning.’
      • ‘‘I apologise for this misjudgement and the lapse in my usually high standards,’ said Councillor Reid.’
      • ‘Around the world, cities with private water-management companies have been plagued by lapses in service, soaring costs, and corruption.’
      • ‘There was a period when that would have been considered an admirable glimpse of wounded pride over a lapse in standards, but now it looks like a symptom of frustration and mediocrity.’
      • ‘Coun Reid said she regretted agreeing to be part of the experiment and apologised for ‘the lapse in my usual high standards’.’
      • ‘And considering some of the lapses of good taste I've woken up next to in the past eight or so years, I think that's a pretty good effort.’
      • ‘A general correlation between an agent's lapse from virtue and her decline from flourishing is enough for some purposes.’
      • ‘With such a high media profile, it's remarkable how little attention is paid to Will's double standards, ethical lapses and misstatements.’
      • ‘We hold it to a very high standard, are quick to bemoan its lapses, critique it almost as a public sport.’
      • ‘At the time, the council said the lapse in cleaning standards had been a ‘one-off’ caused by staff shortages among the contractors.’
      • ‘Look on the bright side; I've already written up my side of events, putting my hands up to the lapse in my usual high standards.’
      • ‘Mohammed got away with it, the indignation among a few of his followers at this lapse from orthodoxy remaining brief and inconsequential.’
      • ‘Julie Bishop argues its easier for Labor to raise such lapses in standards because of the checks the Government has put in place.’
      • ‘Despite the stressful transition, she was also happy to tell me that she had not used marijuana since her single lapse after leaving treatment.’
      • ‘As I described in my in my previous article, many ethical lapses over the past century have been the result of placing the good of society before the good of the individual.’
      • ‘But Hewson from Sydney benefited from a lapse in standards by Doyle in the second set and got back to 4-4.’
      • ‘It was a shocking lapse from the usually solid stopper and completely knocked the wind out of City's sails.’
      • ‘The report found ‘serious lapses in standards’ in relation to Mr X's dignity and respect in being left on a corridor for a lengthy period in just his vest and pyjama bottoms.’
      • ‘Can some impairments, such as ethical lapses, be addressed successfully via coursework?’
      • ‘To correct spiritual lapses and moral decline of such nations, Allah raises a messenger from among the poor and the abject to guide and to warn the great and the powerful.’
      decline, downturn, fall, falling, falling away, slipping, drop, deterioration, worsening, degeneration, dereliction, backsliding, regression, retrogression, decay, descent, sinking, slide, ebb, waning, corruption, debasement, tainting, corrosion, impairment
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Law The termination of a right or privilege through disuse or failure to follow appropriate procedures.
      • ‘So far as they clearly thought this was a serious lapse which they describe as the Appellant abandoning his patient when her condition was still serious, their Lordships entirely agree.’
      • ‘If there has been a ‘merely’ procedural lapse or omission, it may be straightforward to envisage what the course of events would have been if procedures had stayed on track.’
      • ‘It is not there to punish prosecutors for administrative lapses; it is there to protect defendants by ensuring that they are kept in prison awaiting trial no longer than is justifiable.’
      • ‘It was accepted by the respondent that his managerial performance exhibited regrettable lapses and the tribunal can only wholeheartedly agree.’
      • ‘The point is that there will be all sorts of lapses on the part of solicitors which amount to professional misconduct.’
  • 2An interval or passage of time.

    ‘there was a considerable lapse of time between the two events’
    • ‘Given the lapse of time and considerations of natural justice and cost, resolved that no further disciplinary action be taken by the university.’
    • ‘Now, this is primarily because of the distances between the parties involved and the time lapse from creation to launching.’
    • ‘After a lapse of 10 years I returned to Pattaya for my vacation staying at the Sunbeam Hotel.’
    • ‘There was a very considerable lapse of time between the initial offences and trial causing difficulty for prosecution and defence.’
    • ‘The sense of time lapse is disconcerting, seemingly reliant on the drama evoked by the size of the projected images rather than the impact of the work itself.’
    • ‘At such short distances, this time lapse is, of course, insignificant, but it becomes very significant when looking at stars.’
    • ‘That was the point that I was going to raise, not only the lapse of time but the cost in terms of both anxiety and financial cost to Mr Mond.’
    • ‘Apparently there is a 0.2 second lapse from hearing to response on the meter, which is normally used in psychotherapy.’
    • ‘The lapse of time before the first written sources is considerable.’
    • ‘After finding Lily and Rin asleep, the two boys decided they would worry about the time lapse the following day.’
    • ‘But there was a lapse from the incidence of the first attack to the discovery of the patch when your PC was vulnerable.’
    • ‘The time lapse - known as a vesting period, acts as an incentive to employees to remain with the company at least until they can reap their rewards.’
    • ‘After a considerable lapse, we are in the studio of the somewhat older Anna, a photographer taking pictures of Dan.’
    • ‘Irrigating well before the normal irrigation season could result in a considerable time lapse between irrigations.’
    • ‘Forty is historically recognised as the number of completion and the lapse of 40 years signifies the passing of a generation.’
    • ‘There was a lapse of three years, while the book was left in America, at the Reynolds home, during which you made no entries.’
    • ‘The lapse of time was relevant to the need to consider carefully whether the landowners' interests had been prejudiced by the delay.’
    • ‘We also observed a natural decrease in activities with a lapse of time and its increase in the interval.’
    • ‘A decade after the rape, he explains the time lapse, as well as his frequent nosebleeds and fainting spells, as the work of alien abductors.’
    interval, gap, pause, intermission, interlude, lull, hiatus, break
    View synonyms


[no object]
  • 1(of a right, privilege, or agreement) become invalid because it is not used, claimed, or renewed; expire.

    ‘my membership to the gym has lapsed’
    • ‘The condition was not waived and the agreement lapsed.’
    • ‘The two Asian neighbours resumed trade relations officially in 1978 after the 1954 trade agreement lapsed in 1962, due to a short-lived border conflict.’
    • ‘Image and sound quality are surprisingly crisp and clear for this pair of films that has long been in the public domain, meaning the copyright has lapsed.’
    • ‘But the agreement had lapsed in July 1998 and it was possible to pass the file to the CPS.’
    • ‘In the event, the agreement lapsed and no vehicles were constructed.’
    • ‘It is understood that in any case her membership may have lapsed anyway.’
    • ‘AUSM's membership lapsed in March and the students of AUT will also reconsider rejoining later this year.’
    • ‘The SHA for the Bangalore International Airport will actually be a revised agreement since the first one lapsed in September.’
    • ‘In this environment, some half of the central committee of the Communist Party allowed their membership to lapse in 1990.’
    • ‘Well, the independent counsel statute, as you know, lapsed; it was not renewed.’
    • ‘The three buildings were vacated in July 2003, eight months before the lease agreement lapsed in March 2004.’
    • ‘That is, if an agreement can be reached in Helsinki, its claim for independence will lapse.’
    • ‘Only after the copyright has lapsed does it enter the public domain, meaning that anyone can use the work for whatever purpose - creative, academic, even commercial.’
    • ‘The public entertainment licence, allowing lap-dancing and late opening, expired on December 17 and an unsuccessful attempt was made to renew it after it lapsed.’
    • ‘The original agreement was to lapse in February, but it was extended to April, and the total number to be trained was now to be sufficient for 18 squadrons.’
    • ‘These measures will replace the ‘temporary’ discount in corporate tax for listed companies that the government intends not to renew once it lapses at the end of this year.’
    • ‘I think that happened because the film's copyright accidentally lapsed, putting it into the public domain.’
    • ‘If you let your rights lapse they will be sold in the market at the end of the process and you will receive a cheque for the proceeds.’
    • ‘And I'm finally going to use my gym membership before it lapses.’
    • ‘Namibia has a quota of only 200 tons for exporting deboned mutton under the Cotonou Agreement that will lapse in 2008.’
    expired, void, invalid, run out, out of date, terminated, discontinued, unrenewed
    expire, become void, become invalid, run out, terminate, become obsolete
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a state or activity) fail to be maintained; come to an end.
      ‘if your diet has lapsed it's time you revived it’
      • ‘He can make dazzling plays, but his concentration can lapse on routine pickups and throws.’
      • ‘Their age and mere existence confer legitimacy, and sometimes inspire campaigns to revive traditions that are lapsing.’
      • ‘It was traditionally served in a copper mug, though that practice has lapsed.’
      • ‘The conversation lapsed and Bluemud took a large sip of tea while he had the chance.’
      • ‘Smith's own concentration lapsed as the fourth official failed to produce the board to enable the introduction of Craig Beattie and perhaps, in looking across, so did that of his defenders.’
      • ‘His closest friends had no time for biblical Christianity, his church attendance lapsed, and his work became increasingly secular, including writing for the theatre.’
      • ‘But the real question is this: which projects get priority, and which are left to lapse?’
      • ‘With all the organisation involved, my training has lapsed slightly.’
      • ‘But getting through London in the rush hour was always a deterrent and my martial arts practice lapsed.’
      • ‘Interest in family, work, and daily activities can lapse.’
      • ‘He was managing to make a few jokes, but the conversation lapsed, anyway, as everyone was looking forward to the shifting time.’
      end, cease, come to an end, stop, terminate, vanish, disappear, pass, fade, fall away, dwindle, wilt, wither, die
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of an adherent to a particular religion or doctrine) cease to follow the rules and practices of that religion or doctrine.
      • ‘But isn't that a bit like saying that as a lapsed Catholic who then started practising Satanism, say, then even as you were attempting to summon the Goat of Mendes, there'd be a part of you thinking about the faith you grew up in?’
      • ‘My mother is a lapsed French Catholic, but my father is a committed Protestant.’
      • ‘Don't get me wrong, I'm barely religious - I've gone from being a lapsed Catholic to a tortured agnostic, and I bet the ride's not finished yet.’
      • ‘I have thought of myself as a lapsed Jew for these past few years, avoiding religion and religiosity.’
      • ‘Frederick, a bisexual misanthrope in a childless, political marriage, was a lapsed Calvinist who held all religions in contempt.’
      • ‘His resistance stemmed from his feelings about religion; raised by lapsed Lutherans, he considers himself an agnostic.’
      • ‘The liberal church conducts more than five weddings a week, mainly of lapsed Catholics turned off by their religion's stony outlook.’
      • ‘An open invitation has been issued to Catholics of all ages, both practising and lapsed, to take part in the consultation forum in the Woodland's Hotel next Wednesday night, March 10.’
      • ‘The ultimate message seems to be that in a world of lapsed religious faith and an uncertain political landscape, love is the only ideology worth fighting for.’
      • ‘And, in this place of judgement, love is its own lapsed religion, it feeds off of faith rather than rational thought.’
      • ‘See I knew you were, listen, lapsed Catholics are the aristocracy of the earth.’
      • ‘One of his friends was quoted as observing that Reid might not like to hear it but he is a lapsed Catholic, a man who would never let religion get in the way of his politics.’
      • ‘I am a young thirty-something practicing Catholic engaged to be married to a young thirty-something lapsed Catholic.’
      • ‘And the third, a lapsed neopagan, revived her religious practice online and was the only one of the three who stayed there.’
      non-practising, lacking faith, backsliding, recidivist, apostate
      View synonyms
  • 2lapse intoPass gradually into (an inferior state or condition)

    ‘the country has lapsed into chaos’
    • ‘Instead of dying in old age, the human being lapses into a coma and gradually shrinks to the size and condition of a fetus.’
    • ‘The Many-Headed Hydra, without lapsing into anachronism, bears out this claim.’
    • ‘All three countries enjoyed rapid economic growth during the dictators' first eight to 10 years on the job before lapsing into lengthy economic stagnation after their leaders decided to stick around for the long haul.’
    • ‘Perhaps madness is the result of brain processes lapsing into chaos.’
    • ‘Almost any argument can be made without lapsing into bad taste - but one needs to keep an ear especially open to language when the rubble is still smouldering and more than 5,000 loved ones are still missing.’
    • ‘He will then lapse into a semi-comatose condition before dying.’
    • ‘Also, if you work out for too long or too frequently, you can also become injured or lapse into a drained and depleted condition.’
    • ‘She also argues that unrecognised mental health problems can wrongly culminate in a child being excluded from school and lapsing into a life of crime.’
    • ‘What's stunning about Flower and Garnet is how minimally all these complex emotions are communicated and how Behrman skillfully negotiates the volatile path of his story without lapsing into melodrama or sentiment.’
    • ‘The decor is tastefully minimal, largely reliant on dark woods and subdued upholstery, though it avoids lapsing into the prevailing cliches of the self-conscious boutique hotel with some appealing idiosyncratic touches.’
    • ‘The next day though was a real oddity, I found myself lapsing into a darker, and grumpier mood.’
    • ‘When he lost the ability to communicate but was still aware before lapsing into a coma, artificial food and water would not help him, said the judge.’
    • ‘Susan's first thought was that he had died after lapsing into a diabetic coma.’
    • ‘I find it hard to describe the images there without lapsing into cliches like ‘achingly beautiful’.’
    • ‘He made it to a phone box where he called for an ambulance before lapsing into unconsciousness and was pronounced dead at hospital.’
    • ‘In most of the documentaries the testimonies come one after the other, often lapsing into a monotone, telling the viewers what the speakers had seen, how they had escaped or been rescued and, sometimes, what it meant to them.’
    • ‘It preserves the world from destruction; without it, all creation would lapse into chaos; it is the harmony and law of the universe.’
    • ‘It is an absolute disgrace the condition that our hospitals have been allowed to lapse into.’
    • ‘It is impossible for a modern author to create the necessary tone for an epic without lapsing into irony, because the material conditions preclude the creation of new myths.’
    • ‘At the risk of lapsing into national stereotyping, it does seem to come with the territory.’
    deteriorate, decline, fall, fall off, drop, worsen, degenerate, decay, rot, backslide, regress, retrogress, get worse, sink, wane, slump, fail
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Revert to (a previous or more familiar style of speaking or behavior)
      ‘the girls lapsed into French’
      • ‘She lapsed into silence, simply observing the kid.’
      • ‘She said it harshly and in anger, and then lapsed into infuriated silence.’
      • ‘False notes are struck - stupid, kick-yourself-later comments are delivered - and I eventually lapse into dumbstruck, simpering silence, longing for the encounter to be over.’
      • ‘If you go at it too hard you can end up feeling empty, because there's almost nowhere further to take it rather than again lapsing into the familiar partisan clichés.’
      • ‘‘Sorry’ Pete muttered nervously before lapsing into silence.’
      • ‘In her annoyance she lapsed into the way of speaking from home.’
      • ‘Carl said nothing and Thomas, apparently exhausted from the effort of speaking lapsed into silence for a long time.’
      • ‘‘My thanks,’ I told him, lapsing into a reflective silence.’
      • ‘He lapses into a long silence and lets Goodman talk about the marble on the bar and the wood used in the construction.’
      • ‘Jean-Claude, our Breton steward, is a former submariner, merchant seaman and hotelier, and his charming character - occasionally lapsing into French as he discusses the menu - certainly helps on that score.’
      • ‘Now, Simon is lapsing into Hollywood speak to say he didn't do anything wrong.’
      • ‘Training of grass-roots leaders is one thing, but in order to avoid a lapse into traditional authoritarian styles, more is needed.’
      • ‘So, eventually, things lapsed into their previous state, with the sole difference being we put more effort into hiding our relationship.’
      • ‘They lapsed into a familiar, comfortable lull.’
      • ‘Again everyone lapsed into a thoughtful silence.’
      • ‘The new blood will also help encourage a feeling of formality, the people who already know each other will be on their best behavior, and will be less likely to lapse into old familiar jokes and the same old boring conversation.’
      • ‘Last month the forecaster broke cover by briefly lapsing into English.’
      • ‘All she managed to get out was, ‘Second time in line,’ before she lapsed into a twitchy silence clutching a copy of some video game to her chest.’
      • ‘He lapsed into silence, returning his attention back to the papers.’
      • ‘But in the back seat, the two passengers have lapsed into a brooding silence.’
      revert, relapse, fall back
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Latin lapsus, from labi ‘to glide, slip, or fall’; the verb reinforced by Latin lapsare ‘to slip or stumble’.