Definition of lapse in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /laps/


1A brief or temporary failure of concentration, memory, or judgement: a lapse of concentration in the second set cost her the match
More example sentences
  • People with Huntington's find they have a lack of concentration, short-term memory lapses and problems with orientation.
  • Another problem with skimping on sleep is lack of concentration and lapses in memory.
  • His brief lapse in concentration costs him a nick across the chest.
failure, failing, slip, error, mistake, blunder, fault, omission, oversight, negligence, dereliction
informal slip-up, fail
1.1A decline from previously high standards: tracing his lapse into petty crime
More example sentences
  • It was a shocking lapse from the usually solid stopper and completely knocked the wind out of City's sails.
  • A general correlation between an agent's lapse from virtue and her decline from flourishing is enough for some purposes.
  • 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.
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
1.2 Law The termination of a right or privilege through disuse or failure to follow appropriate procedures.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
2An interval or passage of time: there was a considerable lapse of time between the two events
More example sentences
  • There was a very considerable lapse of time between the initial offences and trial causing difficulty for prosecution and defence.
  • The lapse of time before the first written sources is considerable.
  • Given the lapse of time and considerations of natural justice and cost, resolved that no further disciplinary action be taken by the university.
interval, gap, pause, intermission, interlude, lull, hiatus, break;
passage, course, passing, period, term, span, spell


[no object]
1(Of a right, privilege, or agreement) become invalid because it is not used, claimed, or renewed; expire: he let his membership of CND lapse
More example sentences
  • That is, if an agreement can be reached in Helsinki, its claim for independence will lapse.
  • 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.
  • In the event, the agreement lapsed and no vehicles were constructed.
expire, become void, become invalid, run out, terminate, become obsolete
expired, void, invalid, run out, out of date, terminated, discontinued, unrenewed
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
More example sentences
  • Interest in family, work, and daily activities can lapse.
  • With all the organisation involved, my training has lapsed slightly.
  • His closest friends had no time for biblical Christianity, his church attendance lapsed, and his work became increasingly secular, including writing for the theatre.
end, cease, come to an end, stop, terminate, vanish, disappear, pass, fade, fall away, dwindle, wilt, wither, die
1.2Cease to follow the rules and practices of a religion or doctrine: many Christians in Britain have lapsed
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • And, in this place of judgement, love is its own lapsed religion, it feeds off of faith rather than rational thought.
  • His resistance stemmed from his feelings about religion; raised by lapsed Lutherans, he considers himself an agnostic.
non-practising, lacking faith, backsliding, recidivist, apostate
formal quondam
2 (lapse into) Pass gradually into (an inferior state or condition): the country has lapsed into chaos
More example sentences
  • Instead of dying in old age, the human being lapses into a coma and gradually shrinks to the size and condition of a fetus.
  • He will then lapse into a semi-comatose condition before dying.
  • Perhaps madness is the result of brain processes lapsing into chaos.
deteriorate, decline, fall, fall off, drop, worsen, degenerate, decay, rot, backslide, regress, retrogress, get worse, sink, wane, slump, fail
informal go downhill, go to pot, go to the dogs, go down the toilet, hit the skids
2.1Revert to (a previous or more familiar style of speaking or behaviour): the girls lapsed into French
More example sentences
  • Carl said nothing and Thomas, apparently exhausted from the effort of speaking lapsed into silence for a long time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
revert, relapse, fall back;
drift, slide, slip, sink, subside


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

  • Lapse is from Latin lapsus, from labi ‘to glide, slip, or fall’ reinforced by Latin lapsare ‘to slip or stumble’. Elapse (late 16th century) comes from the same root.

Words that rhyme with lapse

apse, collapse, craps, elapse, perhaps, schnapps

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lapse

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.