I have several phones that I am currently describing as “partially dysfunctional”, or “functionally impaired”.

What are some alternative terms (single words only) that are still formal and neutral sounding?

This is an important caveat; words like “trash” are not acceptable, as are swear words.

I also want to specifically imply the phones are not completely nonfunctional, only that they have problems.

  • You mean like it has no dial tone or ringer but you can still dial it if you jiggle the cord just right, but you just don't know if anybody picks up and talks or just leaves it off the hook?
    – tchrist
    May 29, 2023 at 0:47
  • 3
    Would a simple prefix work (e.g. "semifunctional")? Or do you need an entirely new word? (You should also include a sample sentence for single-word-requests; they are often very useful.) May 29, 2023 at 0:54
  • I mean that these phones sometimes shut off and reboot, which is caused by a malfunctioning board.
    – QueenieLou
    May 29, 2023 at 0:54
  • @MarcInManhattan Yes, semi functional would be OK.
    – QueenieLou
    May 29, 2023 at 0:55
  • 1
    @QueenieLou Are you talking about phones with manufacturing defects, or used ones that have been damaged?
    – alphabet
    May 29, 2023 at 3:05

4 Answers 4


Glitchy is especially useful to describe things, especially those with electronic components, when they work properly only some of the time. They have various/intermittent problems and unreliable behavior.

Glitchy (adj.)

Colloquial (originally U.S.).

Prone to or characterized by glitches; liable to malfunction.

1983 Los Angeles Times 6 Mar. 42/3 An exploding spaceship, a glitchy computer and various examples of space weaponry can be found in this sci-fi spoof.

1996 K. Hafner & M. Lyon Where Wizards stay up Late (1998) vi. 180 The Network Control Center had been watching and monitoring a slightly glitchy line in the network.

2005 Metro 2 Sept. (London ed.) 30/4 Some might criticise its average gameplay, often glitchy graphics and lack of decent enemy. (OED)

The New Oxford American Dictionary and others do not label glitchy as colloquial.

Glitch (n.)

1 a A usually minor malfunction
A glitch in a spacecraft's fuel cell

also BUG entry 1 sense 2

b A minor problem that causes a temporary setback : SNAG

2 A false or spurious electronic signal

Glitchy adjective (M-W)

In July 2016, however, the US Army began turning towards Apple again, replacing its fleet of Android phones with iPhone 6s as the Army Special Operations Command found its Android 'Tactical Assault Kit' (TAK) slow, glitchy and prone to freezing. William Merrin; Digital War (2018)

Time limits. It's hard for a parent to know a youngster's time on the cell. (As I've said, it's hard for me to know my own cell time.) You can only guess by what you see and hear. Only the phone itself will provide an accurate number, and you can always check that. Of course, Alexander will counter, "I don't think that's right. It's been glitchy since I dropped it in a puddle last week.”
Ray Guarendi; Raising Upright Kids (2018)


I upvoted DjinTonic's answer “glitchy”; a fun, informal techno term which native speakers will understand immediately.

A much more formal expression would either be

faulty or not fully functional

  1. A faulty machine or device is not perfectly made or does not work correctly
  2. “fully functional” working correctly or as expected in every way:
  • If your Mobile device is faulty or damaged, you can speak to us about organising repairs.
  • Who will be the first to get fully functioning self-driving automobiles on the road and in the market? Cambridge Dictionary

Inconsistent performance is often indicated using temperamental (personification is involved, but this [sub?]sense is so common that it's rarely brought to mind):

temperamental [adjective]


1b: unpredictable in behaviour or performance

  • a temperamental computer


temperamental [adjective]


[2]: If you describe something such as a machine or car as temperamental, you mean that it often does not work properly.

  • I first started cruising in yachts with temperamental petrol engines.
  • Vickers machine-guns could be temperamental.


working erratically and inconsistently; unreliable

  • a temperamental sewing machine


Though the main Collins Dictionary adds an 'informal' caveat for this usage, neither their Advanced Learner's Dictionary nor M-W do, and I think it's unwarranted. Macmillan adds [humorous], but Cambridge Dictionary, AHD and RHK Webster's see no need to specify register. OALD merely adds [figurative].


Probably slightly more towards the 'totally defunct' end of the spectrum is unreliable.


Half-broken [Wordnik]: Halfway or partially broken; somewhat broken.

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