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

Definition of futile

  1. 1 :  serving no useful purpose :  completely ineffective efforts to convince him were futile

  2. 2 :  occupied with trifles :  frivolous


play \ˈfyü-təl-(l)ē, -ˌtī(-ə)l-lē\ adverb


play \ˈfyü-təl-nəs, -ˌtī(-ə)l-nəs\ noun

futile was our Word of the Day on 06/25/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of futile in a Sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. All our efforts proved futile.

  6. a futile and foolish gesture

Recent Examples of futile from the Web

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.

futile Has a Leaky Past

Futile floated into the English language in the mid-16th century from Middle French, where it took shape from the Latin adjective futilis, meaning "that easily pours out or "leaky." That leak of information lets you in on how "futile" developed its "ineffective" and "frivolous" meanings: things that are leaky are of no use. In 1827, English author Robert Southey found use for the word by flowing it into "utilitarian" to form "futilitarian," a word that is used today for anyone who believes that human striving is futile.

Origin and Etymology of futile

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin futilis brittle, pointless, probably from fu- (akin to fundere to pour) — more at found

Synonym Discussion of 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

FUTILE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of futile for English Language Learners

  • : having no result or effect : pointless or useless

FUTILE Defined for Kids


adjective fu·tile \ˈfyü-təl\

Definition of futile for Students

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



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