un·​for·​tu·​nate | \ˌən-ˈfȯrch-nət, -ˈfȯr-chə-\

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


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


a group of poor unfortunates
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The president’s tin ear on race—reflected in his Twitter spats with black athletes and his clumsy response to the Charlottesville rioting, among other instances—is unfortunate but hardly the sum of his time in office. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Among Black Voters, Trump’s Popularity Inches Upward," 6 Nov. 2018 González spoke next, highlighting the unfortunate, but powerful bond the women of March For Our Lives share. Glamour, "The March for Our Lives Activists Turned Their Women of the Year Speech Into a Rallying Cry," 12 Nov. 2018 There's talk of flying lobsters, attempts to impress a date gone wrong, and a rather unfortunate smoothie incident. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "Things You Should Never, Ever Do in a Restaurant: Travelogue Podcast," 14 Sep. 2018 If oceans warmed, this unfortunate topography could cause rapid and irreversible retreat. Eric Betz, Discover Magazine, "East Antarctica's Sleeping Giant Awakes," 17 Aug. 2018 Although a petition called for Damon’s removal from the film after the actor made a few unfortunate comments about the #MeToo movement, director Gary Ross says that both actors’ appearances actually got axed for story reasons. Laura Bradley, HWD, "Ocean’s 8 Director Explains Why He Cut Matt Damon, Carl Reiner Cameos," 11 June 2018 Chris Philips Managing Editor Fishermen’s News Seattle The unfortunate incident of one ship, which could well have a waiver remedy, doesn’t represent a solution for all of America’s maritime needs. WSJ, "Jones Act Has Benefits, Isn’t All About Costs," 8 May 2018 Reducing access to affordable insurance for citizens with chronic and difficult medical issues is an unfortunate side effect and will, ultimately, reduce the working productivity of a population that is growing daily. WSJ, "Health-Care Risks Will Persist Despite AHPs," 4 July 2018 All of these story lines feel cobbled together from various parts and stray lug-nuts, and one of the unfortunate side-effects is Not Enough Michelle Pfeiffer. Ty Burr, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is a Marvel marvel," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Worse yet, the percentage of such unfortunates who are unrepresented by counsel has skyrocketed in recent decades. Jed S. Rakoff, Slate Magazine, "Do Courtroom Lawyers Make a Difference?," 31 July 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 Hollywood Columnist Who Shaped Its 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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Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unfortunate

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

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More Definitions for unfortunate



English Language Learners Definition of unfortunate

: an unfortunate person


un·​for·​tu·​nate | \ˌən-ˈfȯr-chə-nət \

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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Comments on unfortunate

What made you want to look up unfortunate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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