fu·​til·​i·​ty | \ fyü-ˈti-lə-tē \
plural futilities

Definition of futility

1 : the quality or state of being futile : uselessness His speech focused on the futility of violence.
2 : a useless act or gesture the futilities of debate for its own sake— W. A. White

Examples of futility in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Martin’s candid assessment of the futility of the Archangel expedition is contained in a memo to Col. WSJ, "Archangel Endnotes," 9 Nov. 2018 Jody Wynn understands there’s no quick fix for a Washington women’s basketball team that set a school record in futility with just seven wins last season. Percy Allen, The Seattle Times, "No quick fix: UW women’s basketball coach Jody Wynn focuses on daily progress," 31 July 2018 The Boy is taught his first lesson in leadership — really a lesson in the futility of love and the utility of violence: A madman has appeared claiming to be the king, and Mortimer tries to force the boy to punish him. New York Times, "Review: A Long-Awaited New Opera Is a Raucous Beauty," 11 May 2018 Critics said that statistic speaks to the futility of harm reduction. Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post, "At the heart of Canada’s fentanyl crisis, extreme efforts that U.S. cities may follow," 11 Feb. 2018 During its decadeslong run of futility at the World Cup, through the shootout defeats and incomprehensible blunders, England has tried just about everything to cure its major tournament hex. Jonathan Clegg, WSJ, "Kane Leads England to Victory With Last-Minute Winner Against Tunisia," 18 June 2018 Or the painful futility of the late Ottoman Empire? Heather Hurlburt, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Is Making Decline Great Again," 10 June 2018 No play exemplifies the futility of their effort more than a sequence midway through the second quarter. Josh Robbins, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Magic's frustration level rises after Spurs crush them 108-72," 14 Mar. 2018 Secondly, the Mariners’ 17 seasons of futility don’t fall on Dipoto. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "Like it or not, the Mariners had to trade James Paxton," 19 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'futility.' 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 futility

circa 1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for futility

see futile

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Statistics for futility

Last Updated

1 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for futility

The first known use of futility was circa 1623

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More Definitions for futility


fu·​til·​i·​ty | \ fyu̇-ˈti-lə-tē \

Kids Definition of futility

: the quality or state of being ineffective She knew the futility of trying to argue with him.

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More from Merriam-Webster on futility

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with futility

Spanish Central: Translation of futility

Nglish: Translation of futility for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of futility for Arabic Speakers

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