un·​for·​tu·​nate | \ ˌən-ˈfȯrch-nət, -ˈfȯr-chə- How to pronounce unfortunate (audio) \

Definition of unfortunate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : not favored by fortune : unsuccessful, unlucky an unfortunate young man
b : marked or accompanied by or resulting in misfortune an unfortunate decision
2a : infelicitous, unsuitable an unfortunate choice of words
b : deplorable, regrettable an unfortunate lack of taste



Definition of unfortunate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an unfortunate person

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Examples of unfortunate in a Sentence

Adjective She was unfortunate enough to have been chosen as an example. an unfortunate chain of events It's unfortunate that he couldn't be here for your birthday. He has an unfortunate tendency to show up late. an unfortunate choice of words Noun a group of poor unfortunates
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That's unfortunate — for Republicans and for the country as a whole. Damon Linker, TheWeek, "Trump fails to redraw politics' battle lines," 29 Dec. 2020 The strain in the relationship is unfortunate, but West's recent energy has pushed away many of the people who were close to him and his wife. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Larsa Pippen Thinks Kanye West Is Brainwashing The Kardashians," 9 Nov. 2020 Beyond the repetition, the timing for this propaganda is quite unfortunate. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of December 14," 18 Dec. 2020 The timing, following a class that ranked last in the Pac-12, was particularly unfortunate. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, "USC’s strong 2021 class could get even better in a few weeks," 16 Dec. 2020 The timing turned out to be almost unbelievably unfortunate: During the night of October 8, multiple wildfires flared up throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "Pricey Wine Country weddings in high demand, even with fires, smoke and pandemic," 11 Dec. 2020 The simple, unfortunate reality is the more people who get COVID-19, the more people who need to go to the hospital. Ethan May, The Indianapolis Star, "How to read Indiana's daily coronavirus dashboard," 19 Nov. 2020 The consequences were very unfortunate and serious. George Ramsay, CNN, "Cyclist Dylan Groenewegen given nine-month suspension after Tour of Poland horror crash," 11 Nov. 2020 As such, the unfortunate reality is that the dress policies can sometimes lead to some passengers being unfairly targeted. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Do Airline Dress Codes Still Exist?," 3 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The film's title is a shape representing the meeting point between the physical world and the one beyond; hairy, patient moths seem to hold the souls of some unfortunates, though why some people meet this fate is unclear. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, "‘8’: Film Review | Fantasia 2019," 23 July 2019 Our family name, Ramirez, is the same name of these unfortunates who did not make it across the river. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: We must see the human cost of the crisis at the border (6/29/19)," 30 June 2019 But that gentle slope has been known to cause strollers and wheelchairs to roll off as well, not to mention the intoxicated, the disoriented, wrestlers, and other unfortunates. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 These unfortunates spent hours each day chewing tough roots, choking down leaves and stems, munching on tiny berries and gorging on rare windfalls of meat, bone marrow and worms. Nathan H. Lents, WSJ, "The Botch of the Human Body," 13 Apr. 2018 As the threads of society break down, the poor unfortunates who survived the initial barrage don't so much live as merely exist in the post-apocalyptic ruins. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Sleep no more: Threads is coming to Blu-ray," 25 Jan. 2018 There are still unfortunates among us who have yet to lean forward and squint in disbelief at the grainy YouTube images capturing Tharpe, necklines high and hemlines low, coaxing the first, fiery licks from her Gibson SG. Andrea Simakis, cleveland.com, "'Marie and Rosetta' brings the music and moxie of Rock Hall inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Cleveland Play House (Preview)," 21 Jan. 2018 Humor is generally the province of trolls; think of the motley assemblage of unfortunates in the slovenly writers’ room on 30 Rock, and that gives you an accurate picture of the setting in which most good jokes and satire are created in America. David Kamp, vanityfair.com, "The Years with Graydon," 7 Sep. 2017 But before that, Wilkerson would spend that year haranguing unfortunates in the Hollywood community who would go on to become targets of the blacklist, often losing their careers. Kat Eschner, Smithsonian, "The Columnist Who Shaped Hollywood’s Most Destructive Witch Hunt," 28 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unfortunate.' 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 unfortunate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1683, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for unfortunate

Time Traveler

The first known use of unfortunate was in the 15th century

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Statistics for unfortunate

Last Updated

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unfortunate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unfortunate. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for unfortunate


How to pronounce unfortunate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of unfortunate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having bad luck
: coming or happening by bad luck
: not appropriate or desirable



English Language Learners Definition of unfortunate (Entry 2 of 2)

literary : an unfortunate person


un·​for·​tu·​nate | \ ˌən-ˈfȯr-chə-nət How to pronounce unfortunate (audio) \

Kids Definition of unfortunate

1 : not fortunate : unlucky the unfortunate victim an unfortunate incident
2 : accompanied by or resulting in bad luck an unfortunate decision
3 : not proper or suitable an unfortunate remark

Other Words from unfortunate

unfortunately adverb Unfortunately, no one was home.

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