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A forlorn hope

 
Forlorn "For*lorn"", a. [OE., p. p. of forlesen to lose utterly, AS. forle['o]san (p. p. forloren); pref. for- + le['o]san (in comp.) to lose; cf. D. verliezen to lose, G. verlieren, Sw. f["o]rlora, Dan. forloren, Goth. fraliusan to lose. See , and , a., , v. t.] 1. Deserted; abandoned; lost.
Of fortune and of hope at once forlorn. -Spenser.
Some say that ravens foster forlorn children. -Shak.
2. Destitute; helpless; in pitiful plight; wretched; miserable; almost hopeless; desperate.
For here forlorn and lost I tread. -Goldsmith.
The condition of the besieged in the mean time was forlorn in the extreme. -Prescott.
She cherished the forlorn hope that he was still living. -Thomson.
[D. verloren hoop, prop., a lost band or troop; verloren, p. p. of verliezen to lose + hoop band; akin to E. heap. See , and .] (Mil.), a body of men (called in F. enfants perdus, in G. verlornen posten) selected, usually from volunteers, to attempt a breach, scale the wall of a fortress, or perform other extraordinarily perilous service; also, a desperate case or enterprise.
Syn: Destitute, lost; abandoned; forsaken; solitary; helpless; friendless; hopeless; abject; wretched; miserable; pitiable.
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