Site name and logo


Q From Lee Burough in Colorado Springs, USA: We’ve never heard the word feckless here in our part of the USA. Yet we hear it occasionally in BBC television productions. What is its origin? Why isn’t it used here?

A These days it’s not particularly common anywhere, I would guess, though I’m surprised it has completely vanished from your part of the world; on the other hand, it does tend to appear more often in writing than in speech, and to my ear it does sound a touch old-fashioned. It’s an excellent example of a word for which only the negative now exists; some other examples are gormless, ruthless, and hapless. At first feck was a Scots word, a cropped form of effect, so to say that a person is feckless is to describe them as ineffective. But it also suggests more strongly that a person is lazy, incompetent, unreliable, or irresponsible. It’s a powerful word, one it would be good to keep in the language. Try using it a few times — perhaps you’ll persuade people to take it up again ...

Support this website and keep it available!

There are no adverts on this site. I rely on the kindness of visitors to pay the running costs. Donate via PayPal by selecting your currency from the list and clicking Donate. Specify the amount you wish to give on the PayPal site.

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 03 Jun 2000