fu·​til·​i·​ty | \ fyü-ˈti-lə-tē How to pronounce futility (audio) \
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

How much of last year's futility on offense could be attributed to injuries, which caused 10 starters to miss 48 games? The Si Staff, SI.com, "2019 Preview: Can a Now-Healthy Michigan State Offense Rebound?," 9 Aug. 2019 July 25-28 — at Mariners Seattle started the season at 13-2; the M’s are 26-53 since, which is basically Tigers-level futility. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers need 16 wins to avoid baseball infamy: Our prediction," 30 June 2019 This would seem a fierce rallying cry in the culture war, but really — like the denunciations of the American political order from a smattering of Catholic writers — comes from a place of despair that, if acted on, would promise only futility. Rich Lowry, National Review, "The Post-Liberal Dead End," 7 June 2019 The Bruins finished 3-9 but were clearly on an upward trajectory by season’s end, beating USC and nearly ending a decade’s worth of futility against Stanford with a seven-point loss. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, "UCLA running back Joshua Kelley is all smiles thinking ahead to his senior season," 24 July 2019 After surviving the worst of what life in the Seven Kingdoms has to offer, Sansa understands—from first-hand experience—the futility of squabbles over crowns and titles. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Game of Thrones Rivalry Between Sansa & Daenerys Is Gendered and Regressive," 16 Apr. 2019 But critics, including Palestinian leaders, maintain that discussing economic issues without addressing key political disputes represents an exercise in futility. Washington Post, "Trump’s summit to build peace between Israelis and Palestinians is making things awkward for Arab allies," 21 June 2019 But as it was swiftly pointed out, there is a high level of futility in this statement, because then-senator Biden was, in fact, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the congressional leader responsible for running the hearing. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "What's Missing from Joe Biden's Anita Hill Comments," 27 Mar. 2019 Andre Iguodala had no compunction about destroying New York Knicks fans' hopes of getting a superstar to save their favorite team after two decades of futility. Dana Scott, azcentral, "Andre Iguodala on NBA free agency: 'Nobody's going to the Knicks'," 24 June 2019

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

14 Aug 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 How to pronounce futility (audio) \

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

Comments on futility

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


a period when something is suspended

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