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

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 Some team is going to pry Manny Machado loose from the hapless Orioles, and the questions on so many minds are: Who’s going to land the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard? Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "With ESPN's help, NBA is becoming a year-round concern for sports fans," 9 July 2018 There was a pair of chatty fish, too, and a hapless couple in a tiny dinghy. David Lyman, Cincinnati.com, "CCM students set sail for Scotland to perform water-themed show with 'no plot whatsoever'," 5 July 2018 In the end, the state forced the city to pay—while Cuomo and Joe Lhota lambasted the hapless de Blasio for having wasted eight months. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 Such has been the case with Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and its hapless initial public offering in Hong Kong. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Xiaomi’s Deflated IPO Offers Some Hard Truths," 29 June 2018 The series abounds with pairs of hapless bozos whose comedic value is underlined by their alliterative names. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 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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Dictionary Entries near hapless

haphtarah

hapkido

hapl-

hapless

haplite

haplobiont

haplocaulescent

Statistics for hapless

Last Updated

14 Aug 2018

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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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