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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?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a forlorn hopea 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.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
An undertaking with little chance of success; a lost cause. This expression, while seemingly quite straightforward in English, actually came from a Dutch term of the late sixteenth century, verloren hoop, which meant “a lost troop of soldiers,” that is, an expendable squad. The British mistook hoop for hope and changed the meaning to a desperate undertaking, which has persisted since the seventeenth century.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer