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

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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

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 No matter what the people with telescopes say, some people will panic and start digging futile storm cellars. Steve West, sun-sentinel.com, 16 July 2021 The sheer amount of uncertainty in the consumer mindset means any reasonable attempt to predict future behavior is rendered futile. Mo Dezyanian, Forbes, 29 June 2021 The futile efforts in 2000, however, foreshadowed what was to come. John Pfaff, The New Republic, 21 June 2021 The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina warned that if the bill becomes law, doctors would be forced to make futile efforts to keep alive infants with no chance of survival. Bryan Anderson, chicagotribune.com, 11 May 2021 This is a difficult and often futile road to embark upon. Regan Hillyer, Forbes, 6 July 2021 Trump remained convinced that Afghanistan was a futile endeavor, but he was persuaded by McMaster and the Pentagon that the only thing worse than staying in Afghanistan was leaving it entirely. Peter Bergen, CNN, 4 July 2021 The signs of revival are everywhere — a whiff of fried food at Como Town amusement park, a melody floating from Lowertown Sounds live concerts, a line of cars once again circling the North Loop in futile search of street parking. Star Tribune, 19 June 2021 Soon, laughter gripped us until even the futile cheers for Peru’s soccer team couldn’t drown out our guffaws. BostonGlobe.com, 11 June 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near futile

futhark

futile

futilitarian

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Last Updated

29 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Futile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/futile. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for futile

futile

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of futile

: having no result or effect : pointless or useless

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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