Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for February 18, 2020 is:
bootless • BOOT-lus • adjective
“At the first glimpse of his approach, Don Benito had started, a resentful shadow swept over his face; and, as with the sudden memory of bootless rage, his white lips glued together.” — Herman Melville, Benito Cereno, 1855
“We were forced out of the car for the second time that day and hustled into a jeep, unable to see where we were going. It peeled out, turning left, then right, then right again, before pulling over to the other side of the road, in a bootless attempt to mask the location of their base.” — Simon Ostrovsky, Vice, 27 May 2014
Did you know?
This sense of bootless has nothing to do with footwear. The “boot” in this case is an obsolete noun that meant “use” or “avail.” That boot descended from Old English bōt and is ultimately related to our modern word better, whose remote Germanic ancestor meant literally “of more use.” Of course, English does also see the occasional use of bootless to mean simply “lacking boots,” as Anne Brontë used the word in Agnes Grey (1847): “And what would their parents think of me, if they saw or heard the children rioting, hatless, bonnetless, gloveless, and bootless, in the deep soft snow?”