Using the Adjective “Lackadaisical”

By Maeve Maddox

One of my mother’s favorite words was lackadaisical. Example: Don’t vote for her to head the committee. She’s too lackadaisical to get anything done.

Some people use lackadaisical as a synonym for “lazy,” but that’s not quite what the word means.

This headline indicates the difference:

FCC: Lazy Or Just Lackadaisical?

Lazy implies the deliberate avoidance of work in order to spare oneself effort. Lackadaisical implies lack of purpose. The lazy person has a purpose. The lackadaisical person is content to let things happen.

The adjective lackadaisical derives ultimately from the word lack in the Middle English sense of “loss, failure, reproach, shame.” When people were overcome by the sadness, unfairness, or futility of life, they would put the back of their hands to their foreheads and exclaim “Ah, lack!”

“Ah, lack” became the word alack. Then came the expression “Alack the day!”

On a day, alack the day!

Love, whose month was ever May,

Spied a blossom passing fair,

Playing in the wanton air… Shakespeare, “Love’s Perjuries”

“Alack the day” contracted to the interjection lackaday:

Ah, lack-a-day! it’s a troublesome world!

Lack-a-day became lack-a-daisy:

The carpenter..said ‘lack-a-daisy!’ when he saw that the old theatre was pulled down.

The whimsical adjective lackadaisical derives from the exclamation lackadaisy.

The OED gives this definition of lackadaisical:

Resembling one who is given to crying ‘Lackaday!’; full of vapid feeling or sentiment; affectedly languishing. Said of persons, their behaviour, manners, and utterances.

Merriam-Webster defines lackadaisical this way:

lacking life, spirit, or zest : devoid of energy or purpose

These examples from the web indicate that lackadaisical is now used most often to mean lack of energy or purpose:

Having a lackadaisical selling effort is nothing to be proud of

Cleveland police remain too lackadaisical in handling sex crimes

Lackadaisical play irks White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen

Giuliani: Obama has ‘lackadaisical attitude’ toward war, Gulf oil crisis

Why are today’s teenagers so careless and lackadaisical?

Are Christian churches today lackadaisical on discipline?

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6 Responses to “Using the Adjective “Lackadaisical””

  • BRambo

    I hear this a lot as “lacksadaisical.” I assume that each person I hear saying that lacksaclue.



  • Phil Dragonetti

    What irritates me is that some people pronounce the word
    lask-SA-daisical. Where they get the “sa” from beats me!!!

  • Precise Edit

    Great post, Maeve. The history of words tells so much about the history of people. Fun!

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  • Beat Your Meat

    They get the “SA” as Lacksadaisical i would guess from the whole “You seemed pretty LAXxX about the whole situation.”

    Haven’t you heard anyone say Lacks, or LAX… ?

    as in Lack-a-daisical, they says Lacksadaisical……. when saying the long version of this dumbass word.

    that’s MY excuse at least, call me a dumbass Red. Do eeeet! *bows*


    lack·a·dai·si·cal   [lak-uh-dey-zi-kuhl] Show IPA
    without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic: a lackadaisical attempt.
    lazy; indolent: a lackadaisical fellow.

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