Downfall vs. Downside and Drawback

How to use "downfall," "downside," and "drawback" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

A drawback is simply a disadvantage or a downside to something:

a downfall of this plan
a downside/disadvantage/drawback of this plan

Downfall is a much more extreme word that refers to ruin or defeat (a person’s fall from power, for example), as well as the thing that causes that ruin or defeat:

the tyrant’s inevitable downfall
excessive pride, the hero’s downfall

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.