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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 ?
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.
That's something they were unable to do this term, and then spent much of the remaining months forlornly attempting to make up the lost ground.
Here's what I tweeted as I sat forlornly with countless others next to an empty carousel for any sign of our suitcases, or at least an announcement to enlighten us.
After that we had Text Santa, which showed an old lady forlornly looking out of the window.
It was too late to back out now so I forlornly made my way over to the start line for what would be my first run without music.
Highlights included Soul II Soul serenading the Friday crowd at sunset, TV chef Peter Gordon forlornly failing to find people who wanted him to sign a copy of his book and Levi Roots shamelessly plugging his sauce empire on stage.
By that point the once great music show was starting to look more than a little irrelevant as it wandered forlornly around the schedules in search of a permanent home.
Soton are forlornly chasing sixth spot but are unlikely to get it and on Saturday they had real trouble breaking down Yeovil, eventually netting a winner in the 90th minute.
The language is rich with description and readers can identify with Mariella's misgivings as she sits forlornly on her bed, without a lamp and not allowed to read.
As the rain teemed down at Wembley, McClaren stood forlornly on the touchline, a giant umbrella shielding his thinning barnet from the elements.
Yesterday it stood forlornly festooned in a dozen Christmas lights.
My kids still walk past and stare in forlornly through the windows, hoping for a glimpse of a two-for-one Funkey.
At the end of the programme Marr, rather forlornly, informs us that, like it or not, we're all Thatcher's children now.