Posted by: Jack Henry | August 1, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Feckless, Hapless, Reckless, Ruthless

Last week, I wrote about the word uncouth, which is an example of an unpaired word (a word that would appear to have a related word but does not). Here are four more unpaired words, all with the suffix -less. All definitions are from Merriam-Webster.


Definition: weak, ineffective

Etymology: Middle English effect became Scottish feck, which gave us feckless (now standard English) and feckful (still chiefly Scottish).

Is feckful a word? Yes, but it’s not common outside of Scotland. The related words effective, efficient, effectual, and efficacious are more widely known.


Definition: having no luck; unfortunate

Etymology: Old Norse happ ("good luck") became Middle English hap.

Is hapful a word? No. Instead, we say that someone favored by luck or fortune is happy.


Definition: marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences

Etymology: Old English reccan became Middle English reck ("to take heed").

Is reckful a word? No, but reck is still around (it means "worry, care"), and so is the related word reckon.


Definition: having no pity; merciless, cruel

Etymology: Middle English ruen ("to rue") became ruthe, which became Modern English ruth ("compassion for the misery of another").

Is ruthful a word? Yes. It means "full of ruth."

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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  1. […] would appear to have related words but do not. I previously wrote about the unpaired words uncouth, feckless, hapless, reckless, and ruthless. Today, let’s look at three more: bashful, disgruntle, and […]

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