Reader Emma requests a post on the expression “lucked out”:
The … times I’ve heard people using [‘lucked out’] to mean “you’re out of luck” as opposed to expressing good luck or fortune is bordering on ridiculous.
The expression to luck out is an American coinage dating from 1954. It means “to succeed through luck.” Specifically, according to the OED, it is to succeed “in a difficult, testing, or dangerous situation.” For example: He really lucked out on that exam; every question he had studied for was on it.
The expression to be out of luck means “to be unfortunate.” For example: You’re out of luck: the last train has left the station.
Two other uses of luck as a verb are:
to luck into: to acquire by good fortune, without effort on one’s part. Example: He lucked into a sweet deal on that car.
to luck upon: to meet with, to find. Example: He lucked upon some old clothes he had wanted to give away…
The noun luck entered English in the 15th century from a Dutch word meaning “happiness” or “good fortune.” It’s related to German Glück, “fortune, good luck.”
The multiplicity of expressions with the word “luck,” incorporate associations with Chance and Fortune in the sense of the powers that arrange the uncertain fates of human beings.
One can have good luck, bad luck, or ill luck. My father used the expression If he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.
People say that it’s good luck to find a four-leaf clover, but bad luck to break a mirror.
Some people are said to have good luck, meaning that they are generally fortunate, while some are said to have no luck, meaning that they are generally unfortunate.
Here are just a few more of the many expressions that employ the noun luck:
Good luck! –said to someone setting off to some uncertain undertaking like an exam or an audition.
Better luck next time! –said to someone who has failed to achieve some goal.
Just my luck! –said by someone who has missed out on something desired.
To be down on one’s luck –to be in straitened circumstances, for example, jobless.
Luck of the Irish –a contradictory expression that can mean either “bad luck,” or “extraordinary good luck,” depending on the context.
The Best of British luck –usually meant ironically, the way Americans might say Good luck with that. The sense is “go ahead and try, but you’re probably not going to succeed.”
Trust to luck –undertake a difficult task with insufficient preparation, hoping that all will go well.