Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An arduous or nearly hopeless undertaking.
  • n. An advance guard of troops sent on a hazardous mission.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small troop picked to make an advance attack, or the first attack; a storming party.
  • n. Any dangerous or hopeless venture.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a hopeless or desperate enterprise

Etymologies

By folk etymology from Dutch verloren hoop, advance guard : verloren, past participle of verliezen, to lose; see leu- in Indo-European roots + hoop, troop.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From forlorn + hope, in part-translation of Dutch verloren hoop ‘lost troop’. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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