Simple Definition of futile
: having no result or effect : pointless or useless
Examples of futile in a sentence
In a digitized land of national ID cards, dropping out will be impossible, and dreaming about it will be futile. —Walter Kirn, Atlantic, May 2002
After Redemption and disfranchisement destroyed black political influence, open challenges to white supremacy were futile and dangerous. —Adam Fairclough, Journal of American History, June 2000
In some futile bid for gentility, the management has barred employees from using the front door, so my first day I enter through the kitchen … —Barbara Ehrenreich, Harper's, January 1999
In 1845 explorer Charles Sturt led an expedition through these parts on a futile search for an inland sea. —Thomas O'Neill, National Geographic, April 1997
All our efforts proved futile.
a futile and foolish gesture
Did You Know?
Futile floated into the English language in the mid-16th century from Middle French, where it took shape from the Latin adjective futilis, meaning "that easily pours out or "leaky." That leak of information lets you in on how "futile" developed its "ineffective" and "frivolous" meanings: things that are leaky are of no use. In 1827, English author Robert Southey found use for the word by flowing it into "utilitarian" to form "futilitarian," a word that is used today for anyone who believes that human striving is futile.
Origin of futile
Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin futilis brittle, pointless, probably from fu- (akin to fundere to pour) — more at found
First Known Use: circa 1555
Synonym Discussion of futile
FUTILE Defined for Kids
Definition of futile for Students
: having no result or effect <Their efforts to win were futile.>
Seen and Heard
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