Feckless: Ineffectual, lacking purpose or vitality; irresponsible. Originally a Scottish dialect word (along with its antonym, feckful) in which feck is a shortened form of effect. Entered English in the late 16th century; popularized by Thomas Carlyle in the early 19th century. (Carlyle, 1823: “I am so feckless at present that I have never yet had the heart to commence it.”)
Feckless was in the news last week when Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, used it to castigate President Obama’s Mideast policy in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
Source: Today on the Trail, September 13, 2012.
The feck in feckless is unrelated to the Irish feck, which, as Stan Carey explains, is a minced oath, “occupying ground between the ultra-mild expletive flip and the often taboo (but also popular) fuck.” This Irish feck is the one appropriated by FECKiN Irish Whiskey, a brand I wrote about last year. Used as recommended, 80-proof FECKiN Irish whiskey is very feckful indeed.