adjective friv·o·lous \ ˈfri-və-ləs \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of frivolous

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





Examples of frivolous in a Sentence

  1. 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 MunroNew Yorker8 Oct. 2001
  2. 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 EisenbergTime11 Sept. 2000
  3. There is no frivolous decoration, no canned music, nothing but the essentials—well-worn cutlery and table linen, unpretentious glasses. —Peter MayleGQMay 1998
  4. She thinks window shopping is a frivolous activity.

  5. judges are getting sick of people bringing frivolous lawsuits

Recent Examples of frivolous from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of frivolous

Middle English, from Latin frivolus

FRIVOLOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of frivolous for English Language Learners

  • : not important : not deserving serious attention

  • : silly and not serious

FRIVOLOUS Defined for Kids


adjective friv·o·lous \ ˈfri-və-ləs \

Definition of frivolous for Students

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

Law Dictionary


adjective friv·o·lous \ ˈfri-və-ləs \

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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one who attends or assists a leader

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