Positively I'm using completed or success (I don't want to use successful) together with the word challenge.

Now I'm looking for the negative equivalent. However I can't use unsuccess because that doesn't exist. (And not unsuccessful either because I don't want to use successful)

I don't want to use incomplete either because that implies the challenge is still open for completion and I don't want to imply that.

I don't want to use failure either because some people could read that as "(you are a) failure".

  • I cannot think of anything except fail.
    – mplungjan
    Dec 3, 2013 at 15:43
  • Could you give us some context? What are you describing with these words? How can completed be equivalent to success? Why not use successful?
    – terdon
    Dec 3, 2013 at 16:32
  • you could use "hit" and "missed"?
    – Hellion
    Dec 3, 2013 at 16:39
  • 1
    Sounds like you're looking for a euphemism like "differently successful"...let'em get over it, if they failed.
    – JeffSahol
    Dec 3, 2013 at 18:18
  • Perhaps unfulfilled, unsatisfied, left hanging, left on the table Dec 3, 2013 at 18:31

6 Answers 6


If you are indeed using this word to describe challenges and are looking for the opposite of successful challenges, I would go for failed challenges.

The verb fail does not necessarily refer to the person who made the attempt, it can just as well refer to the attempt itself:

Police slam man's failed attempt to bike across Cook Strait [1]

Valley Police Beat: 10 arrested after failed attempt to drive across border [2]

However, you should bear in mind that a successful challenge is not one that you successfully met, it is one that successfully challenged you. If I were to be pedantic here I would understand it in fact as a challenge that you failed since the challenge itself was successful. Personally, I would change both instances to:

Challenges met

Challenges failed

Or,to make it even clearer that you are not slighting the person (unnecessary in my opinion, but your call):

Met challenges

Failed challenges

  • I'm gonna go with challenge met and challenge failed. Seems the best option so far.
    – Bentley4
    Dec 3, 2013 at 21:57

It's not one word, but 'fall short' comes to mind. It implies that you faced a challenge and tried to meet it, but did not succeed.

In his fifth attempt, Jack challenged himself to break his previous endurance record. He fell short by only two hours.


You could try expired.

The challenge expired before it could be successfully completed.


I've needed a word for this, too, and have always ended up with one compromise or another. I find that one dictionary may confer legitimacy to an unconventional affix that others do not. The following are listed in roughly descending order of my personal preference at this moment.

  • forfeiture, forfeit
  • scratching (as in billiards)
  • blanking (as in drawing a blank, blanking out, or doing nothing)
  • zilching (or a derivative of another informal vernacular for zero)
  • unachievement, nonachievement, underachievement
  • unaccomplishment, nonaccomplishment
  • unfulfillment, nonfulfillment
  • miss, missing
  • fault, default
  • reneging, renege (the meaning shifts with renegation)
  • abandonment
  • loss, defeat, despair
  • fouling (as in a foul ball)
  • scrapping, scraping, scrubbing
  • disappointment
  • abortion, termination, nullification, annulment
  • unmet, ineffective, ineffectual, feckless, fruitless, bootless, futile

My first few choices are - the defeated, the vanquished.

As for a one word noun - a loser, a nonperformer, and an underachiever.

A few more compound words (they have their own entries in dictionaries) are - a lost cause, and a lame duck.

  • But that points to the person who took on the challenge, I want the word to point to the attempt of succeeding in the challenge.
    – Bentley4
    Dec 3, 2013 at 17:38
  • Do you mean he quit before even trying? Dec 3, 2013 at 17:40
  • No. Simply that an attempt was made to succeed but the person was not able to do it in the allotted time.
    – Bentley4
    Dec 3, 2013 at 17:42
  • I think nonperformer and underachiever are quite close to your criteria. Dec 3, 2013 at 18:06
  • That again points to the person rather then the attempt.
    – Bentley4
    Dec 3, 2013 at 18:21

It's not one word but (challenge is) met - (challenge is) not met seems to be the best option I can come up with so far. But it's probably less clear for a non-native speaker to understand then something like unsuccessful (while not being correct).

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