What do you call a person who is chasing a hopeless or lost cause?

  • 1
    A dreamer, an irresponsible headstrong person, ... you should provide more context if you want a more precise term.
    – user66974
    May 19, 2015 at 9:45
  • dreamer is not like chasing a hopeless cause.
    – Neelam
    May 19, 2015 at 9:57
  • One definition of dreamer is : a habitually impractical or unrealistic person. (AHD) .
    – user66974
    May 19, 2015 at 9:58
  • The word 'fantasist' is also used for someone with unrealistic expectations. May 19, 2015 at 10:18
  • stubborn or muleheaded
    – jdb1a1
    May 19, 2015 at 17:01

3 Answers 3


I'd call them Quixotic [Oxford]

Extremely idealistic; unrealistic and impractical:

However, Quixotic usually describes ideas (as against the three words in its definition, which can describe both ideas and people). To describe people, I think you might have to go with the character name: Quixote

EDIT: Based on the comments, I think most people, like me, are okay with Quixotic in this sense. And as @Oldbag points out, we also have 'Quixotical' (though he doesn't think Quixotic is wrong)

A term gaining traction is the incurable optimist [Forbes]

If you're flexible on the one-word restriction, you could say:

He's hoping against hope.

  • The adjective is "quixotical', but I don't think it's wrong to describe a person as "quixotic', i.e., the meaning would be understood.
    – Oldbag
    May 19, 2015 at 11:03
  • @Oldbag: I hope you're right. I think 'quixotic' should be acceptable, but you never know when some pedant is gonna throw a dictionary in your face, hence the disclaimer.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 19, 2015 at 11:06
  • I don't find 'unachievable goal' to be synonymous with 'lost cause'. Isn't that the point of the story?
    – Mazura
    May 19, 2015 at 12:57
  • @Mazura: Even if every 'unachievable goal' isn't a lost cause, it can be argued that every lost cause is an unachievable goal.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 19, 2015 at 13:01
  • @Oldbag, think again. Quixotic is indeed an adjective, as the Oxford link above shows, and far more common than Quixotical in that role. May 19, 2015 at 15:12

a person who is chasing a hopeless or lost cause?

There is set phrase that actually describes exactly your person and it is:

defender of lost causes



Just thinking laterally.

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