lost cause

noun
a cause that has been defeated or whose defeat is inevitable.

Origin:
1860–65

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
lost cause
 
n
a cause with no chance of success

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

lost cause

A hopeless undertaking, as in Trying to get him to quit smoking is a lost cause. In the 1860s this expression was widely used to describe the Confederacy. [Mid-1800s] Also see losing battle.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
As for envisioning her personal future, that was a lost cause.
He's probably a lost cause unless something rather dramatic happens in his life to cause a crisis of faith.
Many conservation leaders initially refused to help them, believing that it was a lost cause.
Idioms & Phrases
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