Definition of forlorn in English:

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Pronunciation: /fərˈlôrn/


1Pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely: forlorn figures at bus stops
More example sentences
  • A pathetically forlorn figure, he set out to destroy all traces of the religion of his ancestors.
  • Friends tell me Paul has been seen walking his dog around the Heath, looking rather forlorn and lonely.
  • This is the tale of a lonely and forlorn Scotsman, who somehow managed to get himself separated from his drinking companions, and lost in a strange city.
unhappy, sad, miserable, sorrowful, dejected, despondent, disconsolate, wretched, abject, down, downcast, dispirited, downhearted, crestfallen, depressed, melancholy, gloomy, glum, mournful, despairing, doleful, woebegone
informal blue, down in/at the mouth, down in the dumps
rare lachrymose
desolate, deserted, abandoned, forsaken, forgotten, neglected
2(Of an aim or endeavor) unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled; hopeless: a forlorn attempt to escape
More example sentences
  • The bikers have started burning them down at night in a forlorn attempt to hold back the waves of progress that Phoenix is attracting with its golf courses.
  • Archaeologists think it may have been built in a forlorn attempt to stave off the effects of climate change 5,000 years ago.
  • Any such effort would be forlorn, for O'Neill is staying put in Britain.
hopeless, vain, with no chance of success;
useless, futile, pointless, purposeless, unavailing, nugatory
archaic bootless


forlorn hope

A persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled.
Mid 16th century: from Dutch verloren hoop 'lost troop', from verloren (past participle of verliezen 'lose') and hoop 'company' (related to heap). The phrase originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive; the current sense (mid 17th century) derives from a misunderstanding of the etymology
Example sentences
  • A forlorn hope, I know - but better than no hope at all.
  • They would be forced to start at the bottom and work their way back up, but at least derby matches would simply be a hope for the future rather than a forlorn hope.
  • But that now looks a forlorn hope as the player suffered a setback and is unlikely to get many, if any, competitive matches under his belt before the season ends.



Pronunciation: /fərˈlôrnlē/
Example sentences
  • She had lost the final point of that service game in disarray, falling over in mid-rally and desperately, but forlornly, flailing at the ball to try to get it back.
  • She stared so boldly and so forlornly and so desperately that her heart could have done her talking for her.
  • To those who had watched forlornly as his political hopes ground to a halt in 1989, 1994 and 1998, it seemed he was tempting fate.


Pronunciation: /fərˈlôrnˌnəs/
Example sentences
  • Nor does it, as some supporters of the project insist, either convey unsettling, dizzy-making sensations, or employ milder, aesthetically educational means to let the forlornness of the victims be heard.
  • How unspeakable, then, it struck her, that worldly arrangements should contribute to the forlornness of one's natural state!
  • The repetition in lines two and four underscores the severity of the situation and the depth of the speaker's forlornness: She cannot simply relieve the pain that she feels through a pleasurable activity.


Old English forloren 'depraved, morally abandoned,' past participle of forlēosan 'lose,' of Germanic origin; related to Dutch verliezen and German verlieren, and ultimately to for- and lose. sense 1 dates from the 16th century.

  • In Old English forlorn meant ‘morally corrupted’, but the core idea was ‘lost’, from the verb forlese ‘to lose’. In the 16th century the current sense of ‘pitifully sad’ developed. A forlorn hope is a persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled. The phrase came into the language as a mistranslation of Dutch verloren hoop ‘lost troop’. It originally referred to a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive. The current sense, based on a misunderstanding of ‘forlorn’, is recorded from the mid 17th century.

Words that rhyme with forlorn

adorn, born, borne, bourn, Braun, brawn, corn, dawn, drawn, faun, fawn, forborne, forewarn, freeborn, lawn, lorn, morn, mourn, newborn, Norn, outworn, pawn, prawn, Quorn, sawn, scorn, Sean, shorn, spawn, suborn, sworn, thorn, thrawn, torn, Vaughan, warn, withdrawn, worn, yawn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: for·lorn

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