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  1. desolate or dreary; unhappy or miserable, as in feeling, condition, or appearance.
  2. lonely and sad; forsaken.
  3. expressive of hopelessness; despairing: forlorn glances.
  4. bereft; destitute: forlorn of comfort.
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Origin of forlorn

before 1150; Middle English foreloren (past participle of forlesen to lose completely), Old English forloren (past participle of forlēosan); cognate with Old High German firliosan (German verlieren), Gothic fraliusan. See for-, lorn
Related formsfor·lorn·ly, adverbfor·lorn·ness, nounun·for·lorn, adjective

Synonyms for forlorn

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Synonym study

2. See desolate.

Antonyms for forlorn

1. happy. 2. accompanied.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for forlorn

Contemporary Examples of forlorn

Historical Examples of forlorn

  • She had had a forlorn hope that he would throw down the sheet; but he did not.

  • These men were as forlorn and miserable as my self, death grinning in our faces at every turn.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Altogether, the appearance of the individual was forlorn and miserable.

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • There were forlorn hollows under his eyes; now he looked twice his age.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • That he might be; but he was not so forlorn as to roam away and leave them together.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for forlorn


  1. miserable, wretched, or cheerless; desolate
  2. deserted; forsaken
  3. (postpositive foll by of) destitute; bereftforlorn of hope
  4. desperatethe last forlorn attempt
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Derived Formsforlornly, adverbforlornness, noun

Word Origin for forlorn

Old English forloren lost, from forlēosan to lose; related to Old Saxon farliosan, Gothic fraliusan, Greek luein to release
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for forlorn


mid-12c., forloren "disgraced, depraved," past participle of obsolete forlesan "be deprived of, lose, abandon," from Old English forleosan "to lose, abandon, let go; destroy, ruin," from for- "completely" + leosan "to lose" (see lose). In the Mercian hymns, Latin perditionis is glossed by Old English forlorenisse.

Sense of "forsaken, abandoned" is 1530s; that of "wretched, miserable" first recorded 1580s. A common Germanic compound (cf. Old Saxon farilosan, Old Frisian urliasa, Middle Dutch verliesen, Dutch verliezen, Old High German virliosan, German verlieren, Gothic fraliusan "to lose").

Commonly in forlorn hope (1570s), which is a partial translation of Dutch verloren hoop, in which hoop means "troop, band," literally "heap," and the sense of the whole phrase is of a suicide mission. The phrase is usually used incorrectly in English, and the misuse has colored the sense of forlorn. Related: Forlornly; forlornness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper