What does the idiom "lost cause" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does lost cause mean? In what situations is lost cause used?

Meaning of "lost cause"


The phrase “lost cause” is an idiom often used to describe an attempt or effort that has been deemed impossible to succeed or win. It implies that one has attempted something, but given up because it was too difficult or because the goal was too far out of reach.


The phrase “lost cause” is believed to have originated during the American Civil War. It was used to describe an endeavor or effort that was deemed hopeless or that had failed, often in the context of a military conflict. The phrase would later be used to describe any effort that seemed futile or impossible to win.


The phrase “lost cause” is typically used to describe a situation or an endeavor in which success is impossible or unlikely. It is often used in a sarcastic or ironic way, to describe an effort that is doomed to fail. It can also be used to express sympathy or understanding, as when one wants to acknowledge that an effort has failed, despite good intentions.

Example Sentences

  • After months of trying, it became clear that the project was a lost cause and would never come to fruition.
  • His ideas for success have proven to be a lost cause and have not yielded the desired results.
  • Don't worry, we all have lost causes in our lives.

The meanings of the words in the "lost cause" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


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