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Mistake vs. Failure: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
A mistake is an incorrect, unwise decision or action, whereas a failure is the lack of success in achieving or doing something.

Key Differences

A mistake is an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong, an error often made unintentionally in the process of attempting something. A failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be seen as the opposite of success.
Mistakes are typically specific actions or decisions, like a misspelled word or a wrong turn. Failure encompasses a broader scope, often implying that an entire project or endeavor did not succeed.
Mistakes can often be corrected or learned from, and do not necessarily lead to failure. Failure, however, is usually more final, indicating that an objective was not (or cannot be) achieved, though it can also be a learning experience.
The concept of a mistake is generally less severe than a failure. Making a mistake can be a part of the learning process and doesn’t always result in negative consequences. Failure tends to carry more weight and can have a more significant impact on a person or project.
Mistakes may lead to failure if they are not identified and addressed. However, not all mistakes result in failure, and not all failures are the result of mistakes; sometimes failure occurs despite best efforts and correct actions.

Comparison Chart


An incorrect or unwise action or decision
The lack of success in achieving a desired goal


Specific actions or decisions
Broad, can encompass entire projects or goals


Generally less severe, can be rectified
More significant, often final

Relation to Success

Can be part of the learning process
Opposite of success, may require starting over


Can often be corrected
May not be remediable

Mistake and Failure Definitions


An action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.
She realized her mistake after submitting the report.


A fracturing or giving way under stress.
The bridge's failure was due to poor construction.


A misunderstanding or incorrect belief.
It was a mistake to think the meeting was today.


The condition of failing to achieve the desired end.
The experiment ended in failure.


A fault or inaccuracy in a performed action.
He apologized for the mistake in the invoice.


Nonperformance of something due, required, or expected.
His absence was seen as a failure to commit.


A slip or blunder in etiquette, manners, or conduct.
Calling so late at night was a social mistake.


A decline in strength or effectiveness.
The business suffered a failure in the market.


An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning.
The mathematician made a mistake in his calculations.


A cessation of proper function or performance.
There was a power failure during the storm.


An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness.


The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends
The failure of an experiment.


A misconception or misunderstanding.


One that fails
A failure at one's career.


Can you fix a mistake?

Yes, many mistakes can be fixed or rectified.

Do mistakes always lead to negative consequences?

Not necessarily, some mistakes can lead to learning and growth.

Is failure always negative?

Failure is often seen as negative, but it can also provide valuable lessons.

Is a mistake always a failure?

No, mistakes are not always failures; they can be corrected.

Can failure result from something other than a mistake?

Yes, failure can occur from factors beyond control, not just mistakes.

How can you deal with failure?

By analyzing the reasons, learning, and making adjustments, you can deal with failure.

How can you prevent mistakes?

By being careful, prepared, and informed, you can minimize mistakes.

Are mistakes intentional?

Mistakes are usually unintentional actions or judgments.

Can failure be intentional?

Failure is rarely intentional as it denotes lack of success.

Can a mistake turn into a failure?

If not corrected, a mistake may lead to failure.

Should you fear making mistakes?

Fear of making mistakes can be limiting; it's often better to learn from them.

Are there different types of mistakes?

Yes, there are various types of mistakes, like errors in judgment or action.

Can failure be avoided?

Not always, as some factors are beyond control, but preparation can help.

Is a failure final?

Failure can seem final, but it can also be a step towards success.

Can failure be a good thing?

Failure can be constructive if it drives future success.

How do you recognize a mistake?

Through feedback, self-reflection, and the results of your actions.

How do you recognize failure?

By the outcomes not meeting goals or expectations.

Can a mistake be a good thing?

A mistake can be beneficial if the lesson learned from it leads to improvement.

Are there different types of failures?

Yes, failures can range from personal to professional, small to large.

Should you fear failure?

It's natural to fear failure, but it shouldn't prevent trying new things.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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