feck·​less ˈfek-ləs How to pronounce feckless (audio)
: weak, ineffective
She can't rely on her feckless son.
: worthless, irresponsible
a feckless maneuver that could only serve to strengthen the enemySimon Schama
fecklessly adverb
fecklessness noun

Did you know?

Someone feckless is lacking in feck. And what, you may ask, is feck? In Scots—our source of fecklessfeck means "majority" or "effect." The term is ultimately an alteration of the Middle English effect. So something without feck is without effect, or ineffective. In the past, feckful (meaning "efficient, effective," "sturdy," or "powerful") made an occasional appearance. But in this case, the weak has outlived the strong: feckless is a commonly used English word, but feckful has fallen out of use.

Examples of feckless in a Sentence

She can't rely on her feckless son. a well-intentioned but feckless response to the rise in school violence
Recent Examples on the Web Politics Column: The weird saga of Peter Navarro, from California environmentalist to Trump henchman June 16, 2022 Finally, there is Arizona’s feckless Kari Lake. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 31 Mar. 2024 Yet Khan remains remarkably popular — a former cricket national team captain beloved by the masses who is seen as standing against a class of entrenched, feckless elites. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2024 Republicans portrayed his entire approach as feckless and naïve. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2024 The Jackie Robinson statue theft: Criminals as a group, as an occupation, are dumb, feckless and lacking in whatever constitutes conscience and soul. Greg Cote, Miami Herald, 28 Jan. 2024 If the designs of this conference’s attendees are in some way nefarious, at least its participants are feckless in their pursuit. Noah Rothman, National Review, 18 Jan. 2024 An inept, feckless and unpopular Palestinian Authority, a voiceless Palestinian people, armed settlers and an Israeli military with an ambiguous mission coexist in the treacherous vacuum of putative but ever-more-inconceivable Palestinian statehood. Roger Cohen, New York Times, 31 Jan. 2024 Nor should his feckless endorsement of Donald Trump. Mary Ellen Klas, The Mercury News, 23 Jan. 2024 But his Iran policy has been feckless, fatally flawed and dangerous to Americans, Israelis and brave Iranians fighting against Iran’s repressive rulers. WSJ, 21 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'feckless.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Scots, from feck effect, majority, from Middle English (Scots) fek, alteration of Middle English effect

First Known Use

circa 1585, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of feckless was circa 1585


Dictionary Entries Near feckless

Cite this Entry

“Feckless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feckless. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

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