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forlorn hope

a perilous or desperate enterprise.
a vain hope.
Obsolete. a group of soldiers assigned to perform some unusually dangerous service.
Origin of forlorn hope
1530-40; folk-etymological alteration of Dutch verloren hoop literally, lost troop Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for forlorn hope
Historical Examples
  • The irruption of Bennie and Zephyr threatened disaster even to this forlorn hope.

    Blue Goose Frank Lewis Nason
  • It was a forlorn hope, therefore, to separate them by compulsion.

    Lectures on the French Revolution John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
  • Had they trembled and feared that he was to be overthrown and their forlorn hope destroyed?

    The Dreamer of Dreams Marie, Queen of Roumania
  • He was the leader of a forlorn hope, but he led it superbly well.

    Stephen Arnold Douglas William Garrott Brown
  • With these few he turned at last, in the forlorn hope that the train-bands would again open to let him pass.

    The Reign of Mary Tudor W. Llewelyn Williams.
  • They belonged to the "forlorn hope," and were volunteers in the assault on the breach.

    The Huguenots in France Samuel Smiles.
  • Here was a warrior with a temperament to delight the leader of a forlorn hope.

    A Son of the City Herman Gastrell Seely
  • I came here with a wild sort of forlorn hope you could forgive.

    The Law-Breakers Ridgwell Cullum
  • They placed him in the forlorn hope of their combat, and he at last fell a victim to the rashness of his friends.

  • "A forlorn hope" we have called the attempt to do what we are told to do.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
British Dictionary definitions for forlorn hope

forlorn hope

a hopeless or desperate enterprise
a faint hope
(obsolete) a group of soldiers assigned to an extremely dangerous duty
Word Origin
C16 (in the obsolete sense): changed (by folk etymology) from Dutch verloren hoop lost troop, from verloren, past participle of verliezen to lose + hoop troop (literally: heap)
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
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