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

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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 Particularly for an American audience, the specter of ecological sabotage is likely to call up images of the hapless campaigns of such radical green outfits as Earth First! Benjamin Kunkel, The New Republic, 26 May 2021 Dylan presents himself in these songs as a hapless Everyman, a fool, a coward overwhelmed if not oppressed by events. New York Times, 24 May 2021 The decision facing O'Rourke comes at a dark moment for Texas Democrats, even by the standards of a hapless 25 years of getting clobbered in statewide elections and steamrolled in the Legislature. Paul J. Weber And Will Weissert, Chron, 24 May 2021 Instead of fearing a loss that has so often felt inevitable during this rocky season, the Twins roared to life against three increasingly hapless Baltimore reliever, posting their biggest late-inning rally of the season. Phil Miller, Star Tribune, 24 May 2021 Young Ruth had been hapless in his début, finishing a distant eighth out of nine. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, 15 May 2021 The trip, which was led by Piailug and documented by National Geographic, also sought to disprove theories that Polynesia was settled accidentally by hapless sailors lost in an aimless drift. BostonGlobe.com, 15 May 2021 Others fill out the cast of memorable characters: Gustav Lindh as Bodashka, a sweet and hapless Ukrainian hustler; Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt as Sirius, Mathilde’s devoted boyfriend. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 13 May 2021 In the other leading roles, Ricky Cona makes a charmingly hapless Seymour and is in good voice. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, 8 May 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

7 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hapless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hapless. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for hapless



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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