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

Those epic struggles made them a spectacle of futility. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Cleveland Browns: Win, Lose or Draw—the NFL’s Most Entertaining Team," 26 Oct. 2018 The Beatles’ music is so kaleidoscopic that a recurring theme among fans is the futility of isolating a favorite song or even album. Chris Gray, Houston Chronicle, "Classical Mystery Tour dresses up Fab Four in tuxes and tails," 3 July 2018 The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of futility in NFL history. Joe Kay, Pro Soccer USA, "MLS names FC Cincinnati latest expansion team," 29 May 2018 Kwon's Bongwan becomes an intricately miserable portrait in untrustworthy shallowness and the futility in shaping reality as a way to forget. Robert Abele, latimes.com, "'The Day After' adds another wonderfully understated chapter to Hong Sang-soo's rapidly expanding oeuvre," 17 May 2018 Republicans must overcome a significant voter registration advantage for Democrats and a recent history of futility in statewide elections that goes back to 2006. Neil Vigdor, courant.com, "Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Face Trump Litmus Test At First Primary Debate," 12 June 2018 The power of the boy’s epiphany lies not only in its clarity, but also in its futility. The Economist, "A blot against America," 23 June 2018 The Royals finally did Sunday, beating the Tigers 8-5 and stomping out their offensive futility. Maria Torres, kansascity, "'Keep getting on and we'll get guys in': How the Royals beat the Tigers 8-5 | The Kansas City Star," 22 Apr. 2018 This wasn’t one of those endlessly joyful circumstances like last year, when Sergio Garcia finally ended his futility in majors with a Masters win. Tod Leonard, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Masters champ Patrick Reed unmoved by unflattering portrayal of his past," 9 Apr. 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

20 Nov 2018

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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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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).


by force of circumstances

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