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In the phrasal adjective star-crossed, cross carries the relatively rare sense to betray or thwart, and star refers to the astrological belief that stars guide people’s destinies. So star-crossed means opposed by fate or destined to misfortune.

The phrase apparently comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.

As far as we know, there are no recorded instances of star-crossed from before Shakespeare, so there’s a good chance it’s his coinage.


In modern usage, star-crossed lovers is a common phrase—for example:

According to Love, that story is not going to be the tumultuous, star-crossed relationship between Kurt and Courtney. [Guardian]

It’s a story of star-crossed lovers, who are kept apart by their friends and family, but will do whatever it takes to be together. [ABC15]

But star-crossed also appears, without lovers, as a synonym of ill-fated or beleaguered—for example:

For the first time in the franchise’s star-crossed history, the Saints (2-1) have opened the season by scoring 30 or more points in each game. [USA Today]

As one would expect love begins to blossom, but complications inevitably ensue for the star-crossed couple. [Stark Insider]

That star-crossed Southern man never really found his rightful place in the musical landscape before dying semi-young. [The Morton Report]

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