Unlucky vs luckless

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Hello, dear forum members,

I have this sentence in my grammar/vocabulary book:

Poetry, being one of those ____________ art forms whose practitioners remain in constant danger of outnumbering their audience, is rarely news. | LUCK

I have to complete the gap using any word derived from luck. Any transformation is allowed and no context is provided, only the sentence.

The book answer keys suggest that the correct form to complete the sentence is luckless. I'm ok with that but I have two questions:

1) Would unlucky be also ok here?

2) If yes, how would it make the sentence different from the version with luckless?

I really appreciate your help.
  • Brannoc

    British English
    It’s a fine distinction and views and opinions could well differ.

    For myself I think if unlucky was used, it could be taken as meaning that poetry itself could be an unlucky art form because of the constant danger of outnumbering their audience which is rarely news.

    Whereas luckless (thankless) tends to imply that the practitioners themselves might find poetry a luckless profession to be in in the first place which is also rarely news.

    A strange question to ask....


    Senior Member
    English UK
    All I can say is that I would probably have chosen "unlucky".

    It looks like yet another poor question:(.


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I guess the simple way of explaining it is that "unlucky" means experiencing bad luck. On the other hand, "luckless" means not experiencing good luck. As Brannoc says, it's a fine distinction.

    One thing to consider is that "luckless" may possibly have some residual meaning of "unhappy" from earlier usages. In any case, I think that it is the correct answer and that "unlucky" would be mostly wrong.

    Or maybe not, given Loob's perspicacious reply. :)


    Senior Member
    English - England
    That sentence is actually one of the examples given in Oxford's definition of "luckless".

    I would certainly have put luckless in that gap rather than unlucky. But, as everyone has suggested, it's a strange word to choose, and not just because it's rarely used. It doesn't really mean without luck in the same way that "unlucky" does. Its closest synonym, in my view, is hapless.
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