Definition of hapless in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhapləs/


(Especially of a person) unfortunate: the hapless victims of the disaster
More example sentences
  • It is not merely hapless tourists that are suffering in this unstable climate.
  • For the professor, taking care of these hapless children has remained a life long passion.
  • After all, failure to do so could leave them as hapless bystanders in a game of musical chairs which may be nearing its climax.
unfortunate, unlucky, luckless, out of luck, ill-starred, ill-fated, jinxed, cursed, doomed;
unhappy, forlorn, wretched, miserable, woebegone
informal down on one's luck
literary star-crossed



Example sentences
  • Dealing with conflicting interests makes it into a mass of nervous ticks, quirks and foibles, lurching haplessly hither and yon in an anxious sweat, shouting ‘Like me!’
  • AMONG SERIOUS kayakers, the very words ‘sit-on-top kayak’ elicit visions of tourists haplessly paddling rental boats in dismal circles on man-made lakes.
  • From the costumes of the patrons and the protestors to the ersatz Mariachi band (presumably a tip of the hat to Kahlo) strumming haplessly to patrons within the fenced in compound, costumes were the flavour of the night.


Example sentences
  • But they simultaneously helped to elevate the intellectual tone of the early stages of the primary season and to provide inadvertent entertainment through the haplessness of their candidacies.
  • Anger shone through, Thom didn't even bother re-writing the lyrics for ‘Go to Sleep’, they appear as he penned them - haplessness dipped in blood.
  • The chaos of the film is summed up by the situation the writer of the screenplay (played with brilliant haplessness by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) finds himself in.


Late Middle English: from hap1 (in the early sense 'good fortune') + -less.

  • happy from Middle English:

    Before the 14th century you could be glad but not happy. The word is from hap ‘fortune, chance’, which entered English a century or more earlier and which is no longer used in everyday English, except in hapless (Late Middle English) meaning ‘unfortunate’, its development happen (Late Middle English) and perhaps. To be happy was at first to be favoured by fortune—but came to refer to feelings of pleasure in the early 16th century. Happy as a sandboy is said because sandboys (who would have been grown men as well as boys) were ‘happy’ or ‘jolly’ because they were habitually drunk. A dictionary of slang terms published in 1823 explains that jolly as a sandboy referred to ‘a merry fellow who has tasted a drop’. This is reflected in a pub in Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1840: ‘The Jolly Sandboys was a small road-side inn…with a sign, representing three Sandboys increasing their jollity.’ Sandboys sold sand for use in building, for household chores such as cleaning pots and pans, and to spread on floors to soak up spillages, especially in pubs. In Australia you can also be as happy as Larry, which may be connected with the renowned 19th-century boxer Larry Foley, or owe something to larry (late 19th century), a dialect word meaning ‘a state of excitement’ that appears in the novels of Thomas Hardy. A North American equivalent is as happy as a clam or as happy as a clam at high water: when the tide is high, the clams are covered by seawater and are able to feed to their hearts' content.

Words that rhyme with hapless


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hap|less

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