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From about 1400, from hap (luck) +‎ -less.


  • IPA(key): /ˈhæplɪs/
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hapless (comparative more hapless, superlative most hapless)

  1. Very unlucky; ill-fated.
    • 1818, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, chapter 8:
      Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Affair at the Novelty Theatre[1]:
      Miss Phyllis Morgan, as the hapless heroine dressed in the shabbiest of clothes, appears in the midst of a gay and giddy throng; she apostrophises all and sundry there, including the villain, and has a magnificent scene which always brings down the house, and nightly adds to her histrionic laurels.
    • 1914, John Galsworthy, The Mob, act 1:
      My dear friend, are you to become that hapless kind of outcast, a champion of lost causes?
    • 2008, Harriet Barovick, "Detroit The Lost Season," Time, 31 Dec.:
      The hapless squad, which was outscored 517-268 in 2008, became the first in league history to go 0-16.
  2. Devoid of talent or skill.
    • 2012 April 26, Tasha Robinson, “Film: Reviews: The Pirates! Band Of Misfits :”, in The Onion AV Club[2]:
      Gideon Defoe scripted from his own series-launching comedic book The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, about the adventures of a hapless group of pirates known only by names like The Pirate With The Scarf, The Pirate With Gout, and in the case of their leader, The Pirate Captain.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:hapless.

Derived terms[edit]