hap·​less | \ ˈha-pləs How to pronounce hapless (audio) \

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 In Øvredal’s movie, invading troll territory doesn’t turn out well for the hapless documentary crew. Jennifer Barger, National Geographic, "This Copenhagen artist turns trash into trolls," 15 June 2020 New York’s hapless mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been a poor advertisement for muscular local government. The Economist, "Urban living Great cities after the pandemic," 11 June 2020 Now Biden, a former vice president (get it?), is consigned to the hapless Humphrey role while Trump, like Nixon, plays to white fears. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Flawed Politics of a Law-and-Order Campaign," 31 May 2020 American readers fell in love with this bloated, hapless misanthrope in a green hunting cap, and the bestselling comic novel won a Pulitzer—one of the few times the prize has been awarded posthumously. The Economist, "Perish and publish Behind the scenes of “A Confederacy of Dunces”," 30 May 2020 Caldwell later took the perpetually hapless Lions to the playoffs twice. Greg Moore, azcentral, "Commentary: NFL minority hiring efforts should focus on the big picture," 19 May 2020 The half-hour episode focused on Meg Griffin (voiced by Mila Kunis), a hapless teen who struggles to be noticed by just about everyone, including her extremely dismissive family. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, al, "‘Family Guy’ riffs on Natalee Holloway’s name in new episode," 4 May 2020 And beyond these, the show’s bestiary of Main Street America, its hapless parents and inept leaders, its weird small businesses and petty local politics, its moral pretensions and amoral vanities do ring true, however exaggerated. Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, "Watching South Park at the End of the World," 3 Apr. 2020 But these alluring lanterns also aid hapless males in making a match. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue," 26 June 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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Time Traveler for hapless

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hapless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hapless. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for hapless


How to pronounce hapless (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hapless

somewhat formal + literary : having no luck : very unfortunate


hap·​less | \ ˈha-pləs How to pronounce hapless (audio) \

Kids Definition of hapless

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on hapless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hapless

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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