fu·​tile | \ ˈfyü-tᵊl , ˈfyü-ˌtī(-ə)l \

Definition of futile

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

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Other Words from futile

futilely \ ˈfyü-​tᵊl-​(l)ē , -​ˌtī(-​ə)l-​lē \ adverb
futileness \ ˈfyü-​tᵊl-​nəs , -​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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

And while the lone spearman's attack may have been futile at the time, the tactic has been since been vindicated by history. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "That Time a CIA Spyplane Had to Dodge a Spear During the Cold War," 14 Jan. 2019 Doing small things like calling or writing your representatives can seem futile, but in reality, these actions are very significant. Kate Griem, Teen Vogue, "Teens Resist Was Created by High Schoolers to Help Youth Engagement in Politics," 24 Aug. 2018 Our favorite curling wand for quick styling Styling your hair can be a real drag and can seem futile in the summer heat. Courtney Campbell, USA TODAY, "Here are the 5 best deals on Amazon right now," 19 June 2018 Despite Madrid's president Florentino Perez reportedly preferring an experienced manager to take the helm, advances for both Tottenham and Juventus's leading men have proved futile. SI.com, "Real Murcia President Hints Guti Will Be Named as Zidane's Successor After Turning Down Segunda Club," 9 June 2018 Roosevelt and Churchill hoped to bring the competing factions of the French resistance together in Casablanca, but their attempt proved futile. Meredith Hindley, Time, "Allied Leaders at Casablanca: The Story Behind a Famous WWII Photo Shoot," 16 Jan. 2018 Trading your half grapefruit for water with baking soda, which is completely futile for weight loss (at best) and cause gastrointestinal side effects and possible medication interactions at worst. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About the Military Diet, According to a Nutritionist," 11 Dec. 2018 Trying to compete against powerful, established companies as an entrepreneur is sometimes futile. Ryan Deluca, idahostatesman, "Virtual reality is the disruptive technology you’ve been waiting for | Idaho Statesman," 21 Feb. 2018 And if nobody really knows what will connect with audiences in the United States, making predictions in culturally disparate markets overseas is even more futile. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "As 'Black Panther' sets opening weekend box office records worldwide, Hollywood's out of excuses," 20 Feb. 2018

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.

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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 *ǵheu̯- "pour, shed") + -tilis "obtained by, characterized by (the action of the verb)" — more at found entry 5

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Last Updated

28 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for futile

The first known use of futile was circa 1555

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English Language Learners Definition of futile

: having no result or effect : pointless or useless


fu·​tile | \ ˈfyü-tᵊl \

Kids Definition of futile

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

Other Words from futile

futilely adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on futile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with futile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for futile

Spanish Central: Translation of futile

Nglish: Translation of futile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of futile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on futile

What made you want to look up futile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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