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

The Education Department said the plan was designed to help genuine victims of fraud while limiting frivolous claims by former students. Josh Mitchell, WSJ, "DeVos Plans to Repeal Obama Rule Targeting Underperforming For-Profit Colleges," 26 July 2018 The President's assertion of Executive Privilege for Ms. Hernreich, an assistant who manages the secretarial work for the Oval Office,(472) was frivolous. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Brett Kavanaugh, Trump and what the Starr Report says about impeachment, annotated," 11 July 2018 Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press The lawsuit, which was first dismissed as largely frivolous when it was filed in February, represents the biggest risk to the ACA since the Republican effort to repeal the law in 2017. Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Federal Judge Rules Affordable Care Act Is Unconstitutional Without Insurance-Coverage Penalty," 15 Dec. 2018 But to call them simply frivolous may not do either. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, "WWI’s Zeppelin Bombings Popularized the Trend of ‘Pyjamas’," 7 Feb. 2018 Getty Images Vaginal reconstruction might seem like the most frivolous of plastic surgeries. Marie Claire, "What It's Really Like to Have Vaginal Reconstructive Surgery," 24 June 2015 The show has been largely insulated from MeToo, plowing forward in its own frivolous world of pumping people full of alcohol, dispatching them on fantasy dates and unceremoniously dumping them for maximum crying in the limo. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The Bachelor's MeToo Moment," 29 Jan. 2019 The problem is Mulvaney’s frivolous logo focus was expensive. Emily Stewart, Vox, "New CFPB director reverses Mick Mulvaney’s pettiest move as acting director," 20 Dec. 2018 Challenges that once seemed frivolous have ended up in front of the Supreme Court in the past. Sarah Kliff, Vox, "Is the new Obamacare lawsuit headed to the Supreme Court?," 17 Dec. 2018

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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Learn More about frivolous

Dictionary Entries near frivolous

frivol

frivol away

frivolity

frivolous

friz

frize

frizer

Statistics for frivolous

Last Updated

3 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frivolous

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

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More Definitions for frivolous

frivolous

adjective

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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