Definition of forlorn in US English:



  • 1Pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely.

    ‘forlorn figures at bus stops’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Considering he has taken a stack of wickets, Murali has cut a surprisingly forlorn figure in this series.’
    • ‘The lonely letter looked forlorn, sitting like an omen on the smooth, glossy surface.’
    • ‘The shots were better than good and the swing rhythmic, but the young man in the white shirt still cut rather a forlorn figure.’
    • ‘Mark took one last look at the forlorn figure of Tina sitting at the table he had just abruptly left.’
    • ‘I stood a forlorn figure in the dressing-room, the last to get into the bath.’
    • ‘Friends tell me Paul has been seen walking his dog around the Heath, looking rather forlorn and lonely.’
    • ‘A pathetically forlorn figure, he set out to destroy all traces of the religion of his ancestors.’
    • ‘There the Empress stands today, a somewhat forlorn figure.’
    • ‘Seeing him sat there all alone like that was kind of sad - he looked so lonely and forlorn.’
    • ‘Lately I've been feeling depressed and forlorn, as if my best friend had just died.’
    • ‘The New Zealander is a totally different animal to the forlorn figure we saw last season, struggling as he was with injury and confidence.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, this daft, complex and slightly forlorn figure is set to become one of rap's martyrs.’
    • ‘When Ruth reached the beach, she saw a forlorn figure sitting near the edge of the sea.’
    • ‘When I called, the tiny forlorn figure sat up and reached out towards us.’
    • ‘Hail pelted down on the forlorn figure making her way up an elegant brick path leading up to a cheery little house.’
    • ‘It seemed somehow forlorn and pathetic as if it had been suddenly abandoned.’
    • ‘His harrying of the opposition robbed Chelsea of time on the ball and he looked a million miles removed from the forlorn figure so often seen this season.’
    • ‘He cut a forlorn figure with no vest and in shoes at least two sizes too big.’
    • ‘They were forlorn, dejected, and pleading, yet so serenely resolved he was compelled to do as she asked.’
    unhappy, sad, miserable, sorrowful, dejected, despondent, disconsolate, wretched, abject, morose, regretful, broken-hearted, heartbroken, down, downcast, dispirited, downhearted, heavy-hearted, crestfallen, depressed, melancholy, blue, gloomy, glum, mournful, despairing, doleful, woebegone, woeful, tearful, long-faced, joyless, cheerless, out of sorts
    desolate, deserted, abandoned, forsaken, forgotten, neglected
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  • 2(of an aim or endeavor) unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled; hopeless.

    ‘a forlorn attempt to escape’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It always would be, even if his object of forlorn piety never saw him the same way again.’
    • ‘The ragtag Republican forces, resisting him in their forlorn fight against fascism, had encircled the town.’
    • ‘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.’
    hopeless, with no chance of success, beyond hope
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  • forlorn hope

    • A persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A forlorn hope, I know - but better than no hope at all.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Despite some optimistic noises about finding a buyer, saving it looks a forlorn hope and prospects for the remaining 300 workers and 1,750 pensioners look bleak.’
      • ‘If they get dragged down with this, they will lose their seats, maybe control of Congress, and if that happens, impeachment talk goes from forlorn hope to a bill.’
      • ‘Every professional footballer dreams of playing in the World Cup finals, but when you are approaching your 38th birthday and entering the twilight zone, chances are it's a forlorn hope.’
      • ‘The 10-year-old cat had gone missing shortly after Shirley moved house - leaving her trawling the streets in the forlorn hope of finding him.’
      • ‘So we've been prowling the house, from window to window, from door to door, with almost the same forlorn hope as Harry and Dolly that, if we try hard enough, and often enough, the weather will change.’
      • ‘‘With hindsight he accepts that that was probably a pretty forlorn hope considering the size of the internet and the number of people that could access it,’ he said.’
      • ‘It sounds like a forlorn hope, but you never know.’


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. forlorn (sense 1) dates from the 16th century.