Not quite sure how to word this, but I'm looking for an idiom or phrase/saying that describes when somebody who's done nothing to deserve it has hit a streak of bad luck. Wish I could be more descriptive, but that's about as well as I can elaborate on the idea.

  • in general, you often say "the unluckiest man in the world" ... he's the unluckiest guy in the world. i think mean rather the opposite of "you can't imagine that happening to a nicer guy!" (what you say when a wonderful person, wins the lotto) ...you want the opposite, right? there are many general phrases like "it never rains but it pours", "bad luck comes in threes!" [although that one's sometimes 'good luck...'] and so on.
    – Fattie
    Jun 11, 2015 at 5:37
  • fwiw "born under a lucky star" is a thin for very LUCKY people. I guess, you could invert that somehow. "boy, he sure was NOT born under a lucky star" As mentioned below ... nobody has a clue what you really mean here, exactly.
    – Fattie
    Jun 11, 2015 at 5:46
  • On the day they were born, "God was sick."
    – user98990
    Jun 11, 2015 at 17:17
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    @Mari-LouA I disagree - this is asking about an individual who is unlucky, rather than a string of bad luck or a series of unfortunate events.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 11, 2015 at 17:39
  • 1
    Joe Btfsplk
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 11, 2015 at 12:40

13 Answers 13


To be dogged by misfortune

is an expression used to convey the idea that you are constantly unlucky.

To dog:

  • to pursue or follow after like a dog.

The Free Dictionary

  • 3
    Although I worded the question pretty badly, this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
    – user124856
    Jun 11, 2015 at 5:48
  • 4
    woof woof woof!
    – Fattie
    Jun 11, 2015 at 9:39
  • I'd say you're barking up the wrong tree here @JoeBlow Jun 18, 2015 at 13:11

Jinxed could refer to someone who is suffering a period of bad luck.


jinx (jĭngks) n. 1. A person or thing that is believed to bring bad luck. 2. A condition or period of bad luck that appears to have been caused by a specific person or thing.

However, this usage has connotations of being cursed, or having an extrinsic cause.

  • 1
    This question is not a duplicate, I voted to reopen it.
    – user66974
    Jun 13, 2015 at 23:17

String/streak of bad luck;

an albatross around one's neck;

Can't catch a break;

Can't win for losing;

can't stand up for falling down;

born to lose;

it never rains but it pours;

when troubles come they come not single spies but in battalions (that one is from Shakespeare);

born under a bad sign; losing since the day one was born;

born to suffer

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    There's something hilarious about "Can't win for losing"... You're expecting what comes after the "for" to be some kind of explanation of what comes before, but instead it's just a (crushing) restatement of it. Jun 11, 2015 at 11:54
  • Yeah, "can't win for losing" is probably most idiomatic in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 11, 2015 at 12:39
  • Schlemiel: An awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.


  • 3
    schlemazel might fit the OP's description a bit better: dictionary.reference.com/browse/schlemazel
    – dj18
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:13
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    @dj18 agree that it's schlemazel; the example I always hear to explain the difference is that the schlemiel is the person who spills the soup and the schlemazel is the person who has the soup spilled on them. Regardless, I wouldn't use this outside of Jewish communities, since it's not widely recognized in English in general (at least here in America).
    – Sabre
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:27
  • @dj18 -- yes, schemazel is better. Jun 11, 2015 at 18:32
  • @Sabre unless you're old enough to have watched Laverne & Shirley
    – Kevin
    Jun 11, 2015 at 20:48
  • This question is not a delicate, I voted to reopen it.
    – user66974
    Jun 13, 2015 at 23:18

How about these?


destined to fail or have many difficulties; unlucky.


likely to have an unfortunate and inescapable outcome; ill-fated.(You can say 'doomed for life' is you want to specify that the person being referred to is going to be unlucky for the rest of his life(though I understand that it's a completely hypothetical situation))

Source: Oxford dictionaries

These are just words, not phrases/idioms but I think they convey the desired meaning.

  • 1
    I really like 'ill starred' in this context, 'doomed' seems a little extreme :-)
    – MackM
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:10
  • 1
    or ill-omened, +
    – Manish
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:36

The correct adjective for someone who is consistently unlucky: hapless.


You can say someone is having a "losing streak". This is more typically used in the context of gambling, but can be a general-use phrase about how a person's life is going at the moment, as in "John is having a losing streak in his job hunt; after 5 interviews, he's not had a single call-back for a second, nor an offer."


Not acceptable in many contexts, but I will sometimes refer to someone like that as a shit magnet.


"Down on his/her luck"

From Dictionary.com:

down on one's luck, in unfortunate circumstances; unlucky: She hated to see her old friend so down on her luck.


you mention "who's done nothing to deserve it..."

There's a useful phrase,

No good deed goes unpunished.

Nowadays I'd punctuate it like this: No good deed goes unpunished :/

This is precisely what you say when you've done something trying to help someone else, and, by unlucky happenstance, you suffer because of it.

(It's rather like the outcome of "don't stick your neck out!" if you failed to listen to "don't stick your neck out!" :) )

For example, one time I was driving along and I saw an actual cliché of a pregnant woman, also with another small child, who was having car trouble.

I pulled over to help, topped my car, opened the door and ... scratched up the door of my nice car on a stone wall. Marvellous. "No good deed goes unpunished."

Another time - these things often seem to involve cars - I had just got a brand-new lovely car that day. Someone needed a ride to the airport, so I rushed to help. I managed to leave a work knife in the back pocket of my jeans -- ripped a hole in the lovely new leather of the driver seat. "No good deed goes unpunished!"

Perhaps this is what you're looking for?

If not, someone can downvote me - since no good deed goes unpunished :/

  • 2
    "No good deed goes unpunished" is more specific than what the asker is looking for. It has the implication that somebody bad happened to you while in the course of performing a good action. That is a far cry from "consistently unlucky". Jun 11, 2015 at 8:39
  • "that describes when somebody who's done nothing to deserve it has hit a streak of bad luck" For sure Chris -- most SWR answers are a bit of approximate chat. (But then, so is a thesaurus.)
    – Fattie
    Jun 11, 2015 at 9:39

You might say that the person is chronically unlucky or has chronic bad luck.


  • (of an illness) persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.
  • (of a person) having an illness persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.
  • (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate.

Synonyms: constant, continuing, ceaseless, unabating, unending, persistent, long-lasting; severe, serious, acute, grave, dire

You might also simply say "he is bad luck."


If it's a particularly long streak of bad luck, you may call the person a born loser.

Born loser

(informal, often derogatory) A person who is habitually unsuccessful or unlucky or who is prejudged to be a failure in life, especially one with a defeatist outlook.


To be snakebit

Definifion see here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/snakebit