for·​lorn fər-ˈlȯrn How to pronounce forlorn (audio)
: bereft, forsaken
left quite forlorn of hope
: sad and lonely because of isolation or desertion : desolate
a forlorn landscape
: being in poor condition : miserable, wretched
forlorn tumbledown buildings
: nearly hopeless
a forlorn attempt
forlornly adverb
forlornness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for forlorn

alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others.

alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms.

everyone needs to be alone sometimes

solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course

glorying in the calm of her solitary life

but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss.

left solitary by the death of his wife

lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship.

felt lonely and forsaken

lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy.

an only child often leads a lonesome life

lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone.

a lone robin pecking at the lawn

forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear.

a forlorn lost child

desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement.

desolate after her brother's death

Example Sentences

Against the forlorn backdrop of the muddy terrain the media circus has left behind, the young mother is photographed for a fashion spread wearing a … white dress. James Wolcott, Vanity Fair, September 1998
There is nothing quite so forlorn as a closed factory—Vic Wilcox knows, having supervised a shutdown himself in his time. David Lodge, Nice Work, 1990
Like Ozymandias, once king of kings but now two legs of a broken statue in Percy Shelley's desert, the great facade of Union Station in Washington, D.C., stands forlorn Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, November 1986
she was forlorn when she found out the trip had been cancelled a forlorn wanderer far from home
Recent Examples on the Web Each successive album has been slower and more forlorn than its predecessor. James Robins, Vulture, 1 May 2023 On a gray day in March, Rex Brasher’s place looks a bit forlorn. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2023 Others look broken in every way, forlorn, undone. Matthew Scully, National Review, 11 July 2022 Now my trusty rusty hand trowel looks on forlorn. Hugh Garvey, Sunset Magazine, 13 May 2022 The admissions were funny, bitter, angry, forlorn. Eliza Dumais, Travel + Leisure, 14 Feb. 2023 But Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a vocal advocate of corporate social responsibility who has a direct line to major CEOs around the globe, said that top executives are forlorn. Nicole Goodkind, CNN, 3 Apr. 2023 But Heineman’s trust in what his camera reveals — in the forlorn faces of U.S. soldiers, in the slump of Sadat’s demeanor, in the distraught eyes of a mother caught in that Kabul airport scrum of the desperate — tells its own necessary story of war wreckage. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2022 She’s developed a relationship with Eve, the last humpback whale on earth, who’s on a forlorn quest to find a mate after losing all four of her children. Brande Victorian, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'forlorn.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English forloren, from Old English, past participle of forlēosan to lose, from for- + lēosan to lose — more at lose

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of forlorn was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near forlorn

Cite this Entry

“Forlorn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


for·​lorn fər-ˈlȯ(ə)rn How to pronounce forlorn (audio)
: feeling sad and lonely especially because of being left alone
: nearly hopeless
a forlorn cause
forlornly adverb
forlornness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on forlorn

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