Out Of Luck? These 13 Ominous Synonyms Are For You

Friday the 13th is thought by many to be a particularly unlucky day. The number 13 is often thought to be a bad omen, although it’s unclear where this superstition comes from. To make matters even worse, Friday has been considered an especially unfortunate day of the week for hundreds of years (this was pre-TGIF, of course). Combine the two and you get paraskevidekatriaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th.

The word unlucky is older than fear of Friday the 13th. It entered into English around 1400, and it comes from the word luck, from the Middle Dutch luc, a shortened form for “happiness, good fortune.” The prefix un- means “not.” So, unlucky means “not fortunate” or “not happy.”

Should you find yourself unlucky enough to be unlucky on this Friday the 13th—or any day of the year—you can use any of these synonyms for unlucky to describe your misfortune.


Let’s start with one of the most literal synonyms for unlucky, hapless, “unlucky; luckless; unfortunate.” It comes from the Middle English hap, meaning “one’s luck or lot.”


  • The whole project felt hapless, especially after their biggest vendor quit.


The word inauspicious is a particularly strong synonym for unlucky. It means “boding ill; ill-omened; unfavorable.”


  • We were worried about the inauspicious dark skies and brisk wind the morning we set out on our trip.

Inauspicious ultimately is related to the Latin auspicium, meaning “a bird-watching; a divination from the flight of birds.” Divination is the practice of trying to tell the future. This Latin word also gives us exauspication, meaning “an unlucky beginning.”


Another synonym for unlucky related to fortune-telling is star-crossed. Star-crossed means “ill-fated.” It is related to the idea that one’s fate is foretold by the position of the stars—in other words, astrology.

The term appears most frequently in the expression star-crossed lovers, a description of the unlucky lovers in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.


  • As much as Bill and Clara loved each other, these star-crossed lovers could never seem to make it work.


The word sinister comes from the Latin for “on the left hand or left side.” This term comes from augury, the Latin practice of divination from reading the signs of birds. In English, sinister means “threatening or portending evil, harm, or trouble; ominous.”


  • The villain gave a sinister smile, twisted his moustache, and slunk off into the night.


One of the meanings of sinister is ominous, “portending evil or harm; foreboding; threatening.” Ominous comes from the word omen, a sign or symbol of the future—although, in this case, particularly a negative sign of the future.


  • I couldn’t help but feeling like losing my house key the day I got it was an ominous sign.


If you’ve ever found yourself literally or figuratively up a creek without a paddle, you’ve been in dire circumstances. Dire means “causing or involving great fear or suffering; dreadful; terrible.”


  • We had landed ourselves in a dire situation without access to food or water.

Dire comes from the Latin dīrus meaning “fearful, unlucky.”


A less-common synonym for unlucky, donsie or donsy is a Scottish English word meaning “unfortunate; ill-fated; unlucky.” (It has other meanings in American and England.)


  • He was the son of a donsie father who could never seem to hold down a proper job.

Donsie comes from the Scots Gaelic donas meaning “harm” or “ill.”

Luck comes in many forms—still looking for that four-leaf clover? Here are seven serendipitous ways to say “lucky.”


Another term related to unluckiness that comes from Scottish English is withershins, “in a direction contrary to the natural one, especially contrary to the apparent course of the sun or counterclockwise: considered as unlucky or causing disaster.” Today, the term is typically used in the sense of “counterclockwise.”


  • It is considered bad luck to walk three times withershins about the town clocktower.


Yet another synonym for unlucky that comes from Scottish English is unsonsy, meaning “bringing or boding ill luck.” The word comes from the Scots Gaelic sonas, “prosperous, happy.” Unsonsy, then, means “not prosperous, unhappy.”

An old Scottish proverb goes, “The unsonsy fish gets the unlucky bait.”

evil eye

Sometimes, if you’re particularly suspicious, you might feel as if you have the evil eye on you, causing all kinds of problems. Evil eye is a nominal expression meaning “a look thought capable of inflicting injury or bad luck on the person at whom it is directed.”


  • After losing her umbrella, her keys, and her bus pass all in the same week, Kelly began to wonder if she hadn’t been cursed with the evil eye.

Whether you plan on purposely walking under ladders or staying tucked in bed, it’s worth diving into why Friday the 13th has a reputation.


Someone who has experienced perhaps more than their fair share of the evil eye is a schlimazel. Schlimazel, also spelled shlimazel, is a term from Yiddish meaning “an inept, bungling person who suffers from unremitting bad luck.”


  • I found her new boyfriend a bit of a schlimazel, especially after he tripped over the sidewalk and spilled coffee on his shirt.

Shlim in Yiddish means “bad” and mazel means “luck.”


A sophisticated synonym for unlucky is infelicity, “misfortune; bad luck.” Like many of these synonyms, it ultimately comes from Latin; in this case, it is related to the root fēlīx, meaning “happy.”


  • After suffering catastrophe after catastrophe, we felt stuck in a cycle of infelicity.


You may have come across the adjective fey in the sense of “whimsical, strange, otherworldly.” But this was not the original meaning of the word. In British English it originally meant “doomed, fated to die.”


  • It is said that a fey man will see a shaggy black dog shortly before his death.

Yikes, talk about a bad omen.

Check out our word list!

Were you lucky enough to remember the meaning of all of these terms? If you weren’t, don’t sweat it. You can review them all here. Or, if you’re feeling confident, you can test your fate by taking our short quiz on synonyms for unlucky here.

Feeling lucky about the cats in your life? Here’s our list of words that describe a feline’s many characteristics.

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