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a cause that has been defeated or whose defeat is inevitable.
a cause with no chance of success

noun phrase

A hopeless or worthless pursuit; a person or thing that can no longer hope to succeed or be changed for the better: tried to reform her, but she is a lost cause
A hopeless undertaking, as in Trying to get him to quit smoking is a lost cause. In the 1860s this expression was widely used to describe the Confederacy. [ Mid-1800s ]
Also see: losing battle


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