futile

adjective
fu·​tile | \ ˈfyü-tᵊl How to pronounce futile (audio) , ˈfyü-ˌtī(-ə)l How to pronounce futile (audio) \

Definition of futile

1 : serving no useful purpose : completely ineffective efforts to convince him were futile
2 : occupied with trifles : frivolous

Other Words from futile

futilely \ ˈfyü-​tᵊl-​(l)ē How to pronounce futile (audio) , -​ˌtī(-​ə)l-​lē \ adverb
futileness \ ˈfyü-​tᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce futile (audio) , -​ˌtī(-​ə)l-​nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for futile

futile, vain, fruitless mean producing no result. futile may connote completeness of failure or unwisdom of undertaking. resistance had proved so futile that surrender was the only choice left vain usually implies simple failure to achieve a desired result. a vain attempt to get the car started fruitless comes close to vain but often suggests long and arduous effort or severe disappointment. fruitless efforts to obtain a lasting peace

Did you know?

Futile broke into 16th-century English as a Latinate borrowing from Middle French. The Latin derivative, fūtilis, was used to describe things that are brittle or fragile and, by extension, things serving no purpose or being pointless. These meanings survive in the English futile, which denotes ineffectiveness or frivolousness. In 1827, English author Robert Southey found use for the word by blending it into utilitarian to form futilitarian, a word that is used for anyone who believes that human striving is futile—that is, ineffective and/or frivolous.

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Daulton Varsho made a futile attempt to scale the wall, the ball landing three rows deep in the sixth inning on Saturday night. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, 25 June 2022 Carter was doing it in a futile attempt to appeal to voters in the midst of his unsuccessful re-election campaign. Ky Henderson, Rolling Stone, 4 Apr. 2022 Moreover, even accurate predictions can be futile without a culture of flexibility that allows businesses to shift on the fly as dictated by the needs of their customers. Shane Trigg, Forbes, 6 July 2022 To separate art from its historical framework is futile, and to reject it in an effort to censor past violence is a delusive act of virtue signaling. WSJ, 5 July 2022 But resistance is futile in the tidal wave of glorious music and the company’s determination to send everyone home with an ecstatic smile. Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2022 In such cases, identifying and recapturing fugitives becomes a long, tiresome and, ultimately, futile exercise for weary cops. Naveen Joshi, Forbes, 2 June 2022 Of course criticism like this is almost as futile as resistance. Ross Douthat, National Review, 17 Mar. 2022 Nothing on the offensive end is particularly pretty without Sanogo, and relying on graduate guard R.J. Cole to make something out of nothing on the offensive end is a futile exercise. Shreyas Laddha, courant.com, 19 Dec. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of futile

circa 1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for futile

borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin fūtilis, futtilis "brittle, fragile (of containers), serving no purpose, pointless," perhaps (if original sense was "leaky") from fū- (going back to Indo-European heu̯- "pour, shed") + -tilis "obtained by, characterized by (the action of the verb)" — more at found entry 5

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Time Traveler for futile

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The first known use of futile was circa 1555

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Dictionary Entries Near futile

futhark

futile

futilitarian

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Futile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/futile. Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for futile

futile

adjective
fu·​tile | \ ˈfyü-tᵊl How to pronounce futile (audio) \

Kids Definition of futile

: having no result or effect Their efforts to win were futile.

Other Words from futile

futilely adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on futile

Nglish: Translation of futile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of futile for Arabic Speakers

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