a forlorn hope

a forlorn hope

a faint remaining hope or chance

a desperate attempt

This expression developed in the mid 16th century from the Dutch expression verloren hoop lost troop. The phrase originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive. The equivalent French phrase is enfants perdus lost children. The current sense which dates from the mid 17th century arose from a misunderstanding of the etymology.

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