frivolous

adjective
friv·​o·​lous | \ ˈfri-və-ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio) \

Definition of frivolous

1a : 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
2a : lacking in seriousness a frivolous conversation
b : marked by unbecoming levity was criticized for his frivolous behavior in court

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Other Words from frivolous

frivolously adverb
frivolousness noun

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
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Recent Examples on the Web As played by the formidable Gillian Anderson, Thatcher is a dour workaholic with no patience for the royal family and their frivolous traditions. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: New season of ‘The Crown’ is packed with TV riches," 13 Nov. 2020 Roberts seemed to show exasperation with the persistence of the ACA’s foes in ginning up progressively more frivolous challenges to the 10-year-old law. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: The Supreme Court Obamacare case centers on technicalities, but much more is at stake," 10 Nov. 2020 In fact, the visitor is a frivolous young man, Khlestakov, who has lost all his money at cards. Gary Saul Morson, The New York Review of Books, "An Incandescent Inanity," 3 Nov. 2020 What actually matters is covering the facts on the ground, calling out frivolous challenges to legitimate ballots, and resisting the temptation to spin. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "The Fate of American Democracy Is in the Hands of Cable News," 3 Nov. 2020 At least temporarily, the frustrating, flattening, and frivolous clichés of Emily in Paris exist only on screen. Amy Verner, Vogue, "Paris Lockdown 2.0—One Expat on the Early Days of the Reconfinement," 3 Nov. 2020 In late June, following the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, reading felt like a frivolous distraction. Oliver Munday, The Atlantic, "Proust Made My Rote Pandemic Existence Unfamiliar Again," 1 Nov. 2020 An over-the-top impression might appear to be a frivolous concern in these dire times. Washington Post, "Why Jim Carrey’s Biden impersonation on SNL isn’t quite catching on," 29 Oct. 2020 Ask Peggy Noonan if this is frivolous and unsubstantial, please. Natalie Gontcharova, refinery29.com, "Why Is Kamala Harris Being Criticised For Dancing? Racism.," 27 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frivolous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of frivolous

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

History and Etymology for frivolous

Middle English, from Latin frivolus

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Time Traveler for frivolous

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for frivolous

Last Updated

16 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Frivolous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/frivolous. Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for frivolous

frivolous

adjective
How to pronounce frivolous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of frivolous

: not important : not deserving serious attention
: silly and not serious

frivolous

adjective
friv·​o·​lous | \ ˈfri-və-ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio) \

Kids Definition of frivolous

1 : of little importance : trivial a frivolous matter
2 : lacking in seriousness a frivolous boyfriend

frivolous

adjective
friv·​o·​lous | \ ˈfri-və-ləs How to pronounce frivolous (audio) \

Legal Definition of frivolous

: 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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Comments on frivolous

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