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

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Other Words from futile

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

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 The union cut off talks Saturday, a day after MLB’s last proposal, and said additional negotiations were futile. Ronald Blum, Cincinnati.com, "AP Source: Major League Baseball makes fourth proposal to players’ union," 17 June 2020 The union cut off talks Saturday, a day after MLB's last proposal, and said additional negotiations were futile. Ronald Blum, Houston Chronicle, "Source: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, players union head Tony Clark meet in Arizona," 17 June 2020 White children and teenagers, meanwhile, aren’t generally taught these sometimes-futile survival skills with the same urgency. Time, "‘Let’s Just Make It Home.’ The Unwritten Rules Blacks Learn To Navigate Racism in America," 17 June 2020 Sara Magnuson, 75, was found inside her home, wrapped in a wet carpet in the bathtub in a futile attempt to save herself. Michael Liedtke, BostonGlobe.com, "PG&E confesses to killing 84 people in 2018 California fire," 16 June 2020 Reading about Mengele’s prewar training, one is struck by the enormous investment of resources, intellectual and financial, that was poured into this weirdly minute and futile science of racial difference. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Revisiting Mengele’s Malignant “Race Science”," 15 June 2020 But that proved to be futile and she became stranded on a footbridge for several days, where she was found unconscious and later declared dead at the hospital. Helen Regan, CNN, "Michelle Silvertino: Outcry over death of Filipino woman stranded during coronavirus lockdown," 12 June 2020 Such brief but ultimately futile rallies were regular occurrences during both the Great Depression and the Great Recession. CBS News, "Stocks are on an epic run-up, but will the good times last?," 4 June 2020 In the days and weeks after her assault, Arabella tries to move on, going through the motions of self-care — therapy, yoga, paint-and-sip nights — all while making futile attempts to finish her draft. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, "Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You is a piercing story of survival: Review," 4 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for futile

Time Traveler

The first known use of futile was circa 1555

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Statistics for futile

Last Updated

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Futile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/futile. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for futile


How to pronounce futile (audio) How to pronounce futile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of futile

: having no result or effect : pointless or useless


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on futile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for futile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with futile

Spanish Central: Translation of futile

Nglish: Translation of futile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of futile for Arabic Speakers

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