hapless

adjective
hap·​less | \ˈha-pləs \

Definition of hapless 

: having no luck : unfortunate tale of a hapless sailor hapless beings caught in the grip of forces we can do little about— W. H. Whyte

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Other Words from hapless

haplessly adverb
haplessness noun

Did You Know?

Hapless literally means what you'd expect it to mean: "without hap"-"hap" being another word for "fortune" or "luck." Hap derives from the Old Norse word for "good luck." ("Happen" and "happy" are also descendants of the same ancient root word.) English has several words to describe those lacking good fortune, including "ill-starred," "ill-fated," "unlucky," and "luckless," a word formed in parallel to "hapless" by adding the suffix -less. "Ill-starred" suggests bringing calamity or the threat of a terrible fate ("the ill-starred year the Great Depression began"). "Ill-fated" refers only to being doomed ("the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic"). "Luckless" and "unlucky" usually apply to a person or thing notably or chronically unfortunate ("the luckless investor lost all her money" and "an unlucky man who failed at everything he tried").

Examples of hapless in a Sentence

She plays the hapless heroine who is unlucky in love. the hapless motorist had barely paid his bill and driven away from the body shop when a truck sideswiped his car

Recent Examples on the Web

Upon entering our airspace, cosmic rays first obliterate some hapless molecule in Earth’s atmosphere. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 Perhaps that label will no longer be applied to a bunch of hapless wonks and economists. David Roberts, Vox, "Climate activists to Nancy Pelosi: go big or we won’t go home," 14 Nov. 2018 That is, could a person — like a photon or an electron or Schrödinger’s hapless cat, dead and alive at the same time — directly engage with the quantum world? Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 God knows what Victor, a hapless English professor holed up in his temporary university office, is up to at the beginning of Neo-Futurist Lily Mooney's new play. Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader, "A playwright’s attack on her own character amounts to Empty Threats," 21 June 2018 England’s history of misadventures against World Cup underdogs includes hapless draws against Algeria and Ireland and a humiliating defeat by a soccer upstart known as the U.S. Jonathan Clegg, WSJ, "England Looks Dominant at the World Cup—Seriously," 24 June 2018 More importantly, is abolishing ICE a serious idea, or is it, as right-wing pundits insist, a knee-jerk anti-cop reaction to the immigration debate that will alienate moderate voters and lead to a political bloodbath for the ever-hapless Democrats. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "Why they risked everything to Occupy ICE | Will Bunch," 5 July 2018 And Lilly’s Wasp is a fairly captivating second banana: The script—credited to no fewer than five writers, one of them Rudd—is culturally astute enough to allow Wasp to save Ant-Man’s hapless ass more than once. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp Has Stakes as Small as Its Superheroes But It’s Hard to Dislike," 3 July 2018 That means leaders can all provide their own interpretations and claim victory at home, while hapless officials are left to work out how to transmute the empty phrases into meaningful policy. The Economist, "How policy debates in Europe become untethered from reality," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hapless.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hapless

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hapless

see hap entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near hapless

haphtarah

hapkido

hapl-

hapless

haplite

haplobiont

haplocaulescent

Statistics for hapless

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hapless

The first known use of hapless was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for hapless

hapless

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of hapless

: having no luck : very unfortunate

hapless

adjective
hap·​less | \ˈha-pləs \

Kids Definition of hapless

: unfortunate sense 1 The hapless runner tripped during the race.

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More from Merriam-Webster on hapless

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hapless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hapless

Spanish Central: Translation of hapless

Nglish: Translation of hapless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hapless for Arabic Speakers

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