from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Being without advantage or benefit; useless. synonym: futile.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Without boot or advantage; unavailing; unprofitable; useless; without profit or success.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Unavailing; unprofitable; useless; without advantage or success.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective without boots
  • adjective profitless; pointless; unavailing

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective unproductive of success


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[boot + –less.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

boot +‎ -less

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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  • And the men appeared, some of his watch, others of the second mate's watch, routed from sleep -- men coatless, and hatless, and bootless; men ghastly-faced with fear but eager for once to spring to the orders of the man who knew and could save their miserable lives from miserable death.


  • But my hands had been tied behind my back and when my bootless feet slipped on the ice I had no way of catching myself.

    On Desperate Seas « A Fly in Amber 2009

  • Yet to sojourn in San Antonio unherbed was to set off under the searing sun naked, scalped, and bootless across some scree of burning rock straight out of Cormac McCarthy.

    Alamo Rag David Ackley 2011

  • If their forays were bootless, in the nature of things their forays would cease.

    The Golden Poppy 2010

  • Hitchens gave short shrift to the "insulting" suggestion that cancer might persuade him to change his position where reason had not, arguing that to ditch principles "held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favour at the last minute" would be a "hucksterish choice", and urging those who had taken it upon themselves to pray for him not to "trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries".

    Christopher Hitchens dies aged 62 2011

  • The attack was bootless and the guards immediately arrested Meir, the hero of the ghetto.

    Heroic 2010

  • And the fact is that millions of Negroes, as a result of centuries of denial and neglect, have been left bootless.

    Martin Luther King Jr.—if anyone is listening 2008

  • And the fact is that millions of Negroes, as a result of centuries of denial and neglect, have been left bootless.

    April « 2008 « Bill Ayers 2008

  • In The Extra Man, based on a creepy comic novel by Jonathan Ames, Dano plays Louis Ives, a bootless young man who fancies himself a character out of The Great Gatsby.

    Marshall Fine: HuffPost Review: The Extra Man 2010

  •   He subsequently surfaced in aficcione, a tale of his bootless pursuit of a reclusive poetess, modeled on one I'd met on-line.

    My Fictional Tormenter 2010


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  • Ineffectual; useless. Around the time of the Norman Conquest a boot, also often spelt bote, was something advantageous, profitable or good (through the ancient Germanic languages, it’s closely linked with better and best as the comparative and superlative of good).

    We still have it in the fixed phrase to boot, meaning something extra or additional; back around the year 1000 the phrase meant "to the good; to one’s advantage". There were lots of meanings associated with boot: it might mean a levy taken to repair a road or bridge; in the feudal system it referred to the right of a tenant to take timber from his lord’s estate for fuel or repairs (a set of words existed for various kinds, such as firebote, housebote, and hedgebote). It could also mean compensation for wrongdoing or injury. In this sense, it often appeared in compounds, such as man-bote, compensation by a person to somebody he had injured, or the later thief-bote, a bribe or reparations by a thief to avoid prosecution.

    If you were bootless, you were without help or remedy or couldn’t be compensated. The meaning evolved into the figurative sense of something fruitless, unprofitable, or to no useful purpose. Charles Dickens used it this way in A Tale of Two Cities: "'Well!' said that good-natured emissary, after a full half-hour of bootless attempts to bring him round to the question."

    But the most famous example is probably that in Shakespeare's Henry IV in which the Bard puns on two senses of the word:

    Glendower: Three times hath Henry Bolingbroke made head

    Against my power; thrice from the banks of Wye

    And sandy-bottom'd Severn have I sent him

    Bootless home and weather-beaten back.

    Hotspur: Home without boots, and in foul weather too?

    How scapes he agues, in the devil's name.

    (from World Wide Words)

    May 21, 2008