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forlorn hope

1. An undertaking that seems very unlikely to succeed. This plan you have is a forlorn hope and will never work out the way you want.
2. A group of soldiers sent on an extremely dangerous mission. The phrase comes from the Dutch verloren hoop, meaning "lost troop." Have you heard anything from the forlorn hope yet? Did they reach their target?
See also: forlorn, hope

a forlorn hope

a faint remaining hope or chance; a desperate attempt.
This expression developed in the mid 16th century from the Dutch expression verloren hoop ‘lost troop’. The phrase originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive; the equivalent French phrase is enfants perdus ‘lost children’. The current sense, which dates from the mid 17th century, arose from a misunderstanding of the etymology.
See also: forlorn, hope
References in periodicals archive ?
Especially in the outer suburban rings of most American cities, you'll find a sea of houses, each sitting forlornly in the middle of a featureless, functionless lot.
In one of his small sketches--his exhibition at the Schnittraum ran at the same time as Art Cologne--he takes aim at the juxtaposition of the "Old Big Art Fair" and the smaller parallel "Young Art Fair": A clueless middle-class collector stands rather forlornly in front of both convention centers.
When I get to Parker's, there are three people there--Monroe, Waldron, and Corrigan, sitting forlornly at the bar watching a football game.
Retreating to the 'text search' page I forlornly attempted 'Callicrates' and then didn't bother with 'Ictinus'.
That's been one of the many suggestions floated for the United States, but the legendary liner continues to forlornly rust away in Philadelphia.
I was driven by the park after it was bulldozed and forlornly stared at the chunks of concrete and coping bits that were all that was left of that amazing place.
com) comments: "Well, now you know why they always stare forlornly at you when you're getting ready for church.
As Egypt's King Farouk once forlornly opined, in the end there will only be five kings left: spades, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and England.
Sinking down into the folds of her wedding dress, she moans forlornly at the injustice of it all, as if someone had mistakenly tossed a bucket of water over the good witch instead of the bad.
At one Sixth Avenue property, a couple of striking workers wearing their red and while strike signboards stood forlornly in front of the office tower while replacement workers around the corner gleefully chipped away at the ice and snow, saying they were happy to be making $10 to $15 per hour.
The champion of this prized species seems to stand almost forlornly as a symbol of a debt we owe the land.
So it starts, a box of baubles, stars, Father Christmases, fairies and other assorted cheap plastic tat are unpacked and hang forlornly on the drooping branches, of what must now be a 15-year-old family heirloom.
The person filming the spectacle captioned the video "too fat to fit on" as he forlornly stepped off the ride.
A cherub peers forlornly down on the two figures underneath and I imagine I'm there 2,000 years ago then it is time for me to walk away glancing back at this gem near Kingsway.