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Ne’er-do-well

A ne’er-do-well is someone who is no good, a good-for-nothing, an irresponsible, lazy, worthless human being. Ne’er-do-well is hyphenated. Ne’er-do-well is a contraction of the phrase never-do-well, it appears in the 1730s from Scotland. The word ne’er has been around since the 1200s, first used in Scotland and North England. Ne’er-do-well may be used as a noun or as an adjective. The use of the phrase ne’er-do-well peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. Today it is considered a somewhat antiquated phrase.


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Examples

A Wearside historian has uncovered the amazing life story of a ne’er-do-well uncle – thanks to old Echo articles and war documents. (The Sunderland Echo)

When Jack (Gabriel Ebert) — a bar regular of Bianca’s and a ne’er-do-well with relationships — takes a shining to Jane, Bianca’s cautionary instincts kick in. (The New York Times)

This year, the company is presenting Aladdin, that classic story of an impoverished young ne’er-do-well who releases a genie from a magic lamp. (The Bristol Post)

The exhibition includes an early Fife Archive police mugshot of Edward Clack, a ne’er-do-well who was “sent to the Mars”, a ship home for young boys docked in the Tay, but who run away only to die in the First World War. (The Courier)

It’s only when she stops writing derivative stories about Archie — a character directly based on ne’er-do-well Leo — that she can finally get over the writer’s block that’s been dogging her for decades. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

Imagine that you are an impecunious ne’er-do-well who is courting a wealthy woman. (The Wall Street Journal)

In a discussion of New Hampshire’s first settlers, he evokes the free spirits you find living back in those woods in their trailers and plywood shacks, the “worthy nonconformists, chiefly of the yeoman and tradesman classes, while along with such, or as a godless fringe to the pious garment, came a host of the shiftless, ne’er-do-well, or positively vicious kind, who naturally found in a new country some relief from the restraints and some respite from the fruitless toil of the fatherland.” (The Washington Post)

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