frivolous

adjective

friv·​o·​lous ˈfri-və-ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio)
1
a
: of little weight or importance
She thinks window shopping is a frivolous activity.
b
: having no sound basis (as in fact or law)
a frivolous lawsuit
2
a
: lacking in seriousness
a frivolous conversation
b
: marked by unbecoming levity
was criticized for his frivolous behavior in court
frivolously adverb
frivolousness noun

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A Serious Discussion About the Meaning of Frivolous

The word frivolous is applied to things that don't deserve serious attention—though in some cases a thing described as "frivolous" is serious enough to be a legal matter.

In its most basic, and oldest, uses, frivolous simply describes things of little importance. You can refer to anything you don't find worthwhile—from silly products to outrageous forms of entertainment to goofy pursuits—as "frivolous." Something that in a more technical sense lacks seriousness can also be described with the word; a frivolous essay or book isn't dealing with important topics or ideas. In applying the word frivolous to something, you're saying it doesn't deserve serious attention.

The word frivolous gets more serious when it's applied, as it often is, to legal matters. If a lawsuit is said to be frivolous, it cannot be successfully argued (because, for example, a successful argument would require that a widely rejected legal theory be accepted) or that laws—or the facts—don't support it.

Examples of frivolous in a Sentence

She knew that people might think her frivolous, Kitty said, to talk to some saint when she had a cooking disaster, but that was what she really believed the saints were there for. Alice Munro, New Yorker, 8 Oct. 2001
As the Explorer quickly became the most popular SUV of all time … a number of lawsuits concerning the Firestone tires were filed, the first in 1992. But Ford and Firestone, like most companies in today's … society, tend to assume that the bulk of legal actions are frivolous. Daniel Eisenberg, Time, 11 Sept. 2000
There is no frivolous decoration, no canned music, nothing but the essentials—well-worn cutlery and table linen, unpretentious glasses. Peter Mayle, GQ, May 1998
She thinks window shopping is a frivolous activity. judges are getting sick of people bringing frivolous lawsuits
Recent Examples on the Web Steer clear of viewing this as frivolous or unnecessary; adding a bit of positivity to your world will boost you to do the same for others. Tarot.com, Baltimore Sun, 26 June 2024 Lasting bonds depend on the answers to questions that might, to outsiders, seem frivolous. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 June 2024 Any frivolous case will be properly dismissed like thousands of other frivolous attempts at litigation that happen in the state every year. New York Daily News Editorial Board, New York Daily News, 15 May 2024 Bruce Wayne: To the public at large, Bruce Wayne is a shallow dilettante, apparently wasting his parents’ vast fortune on frivolous pursuits and hedonistic pleasures. Denise Petski, Deadline, 20 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for frivolous 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'frivolous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Latin frivolus

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of frivolous was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near frivolous

Cite this Entry

“Frivolous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frivolous. Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

frivolous

adjective
friv·​o·​lous ˈfriv-(ə-)ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio)
1
: of little importance : trivial
a frivolous complaint
2
: lacking in seriousness
a frivolous attitude about a serious matter
frivolously adverb
frivolousness noun

Legal Definition

frivolous

adjective
friv·​o·​lous ˈfri-və-ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio)
: lacking in any arguable basis or merit in either law or fact

Note: In an attempt to discourage frivolous lawsuits, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the signature of an attorney or party on any pleading, motion, or other paper to certify that to the signer's knowledge it is grounded in fact and warranted by law or otherwise brought in good faith and not for an improper purpose. A court is authorized to impose sanctions for violation of the rule.

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