vain

adjective
\ ˈvān How to pronounce vain (audio) \

Definition of vain

1 : having or showing undue or excessive pride in one's appearance or achievements : conceited
2 : marked by futility or ineffectualness : unsuccessful, useless vain efforts to escape
3 : having no real value : idle, worthless vain pretensions
4 archaic : foolish, silly
in vain
1 : to no end : without success or result her efforts were in vain
2 : in an irreverent or blasphemous manner Being a religion writer, I have always tried to avoid using the Lord's name in vain. I have not always succeeded.— Don Lattin — see also take in vain

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Other Words from vain

vainly adverb
vainness \ ˈvān-​nəs How to pronounce vain (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for vain

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 vain in a Sentence

For a half a century, scholars have searched in vain for the source of the jade that the early civilizations of the Americas prized above all else and fashioned into precious objects of worship, trade and adornment. — William J. Broad, New York Times, 22 May 2002 … the miseries of people's lives ought not to be exploited ad libitum in the furtherance of our profits or our careers, and in the vain conviction that we understand everything. — Richard Taruskin, New Republic, 24 Dec. 2001 It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847 Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813 Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain — William Shakespeare, King Richard the Second, 1596 She is very vain about her appearance. He is the vainest man I know. A vain effort to quell the public's fears only made matters worse. Volunteers searched the area in the vain hope of finding clues.
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Recent Examples on the Web Facebook, not surprisingly, has pushed back hard on this and launched a splashy marketing campaign to try in vain to rally users to its side in light of these coming changes from Apple. Andy Meek, BGR, "iOS 14.5: Mark Zuckerberg’s nightmare has arrived, thanks to Tim Cook," 26 Apr. 2021 Not that Armstrong felt that the pursuit was in vain. Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Online, "The Barkley Marathons and the Allure of Discomfort," 23 Apr. 2021 Before, Lancaster had tried in vain to get every student a computer. Washington Post, "Delivering fresh produce to families, pancake mix to staff, principal works to boost morale and navigate challenges of pandemic," 19 Apr. 2021 Paramedics then tried in vain to revive him before pronouncing him dead at the scene. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Driver who was killed in crash off SR-78 in San Marcos ID’d," 16 Apr. 2021 The bewildered Swede protested in vain and finally called an American to the telephone to confirm the news. Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune, "A new exhibit argues for the timeliness of famed Minnesota author Sinclair Lewis," 8 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, hundreds of anxious Italians have attempted in vain to book appointments in San Marino for Sputnik V. Washington Post, "San Marino, the micronation within Italy, stokes envy with speedy Russian-supplied vaccine campaign," 2 Apr. 2021 Officials say hundreds of Italians have tried to make vaccination appointments there, and some even showed up, hoping in vain to get vaccinated by the foreign state next door. New York Times, "Shut Out on Vaccines, Tiny San Marino Turns to Old Friend: Russia," 2 Apr. 2021 Yet Arrested Development’s Lucille, the countess of the hapless and vain Bluth family, would become Walter’s signature gig. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "How Jessica Walter Found the Soul in Mean Characters," 26 Mar. 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for vain

Middle English veyn "empty, futile, groundless, foolish, excessively proud," borrowed from Anglo-French vain, vein, going back to Latin vānus "lacking content, empty, illusory, marked by foolish or empty pride" — more at wane entry 1

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Time Traveler for vain

Time Traveler

The first known use of vain was in the 14th century

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Statistics for vain

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vain. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for vain

vain

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of vain

: too proud of your own appearance, abilities, achievements, etc.
: having no success : not producing a desired result

vain

adjective
\ ˈvān How to pronounce vain (audio) \
vainer; vainest

Kids Definition of vain

1 : having no success He made a vain effort to escape.
2 : having or showing the attitude of a person who thinks too highly of his or her looks or abilities
in vain
1 : without success I searched in vain for my key.
2 : in an unholy way

Other Words from vain

vainly adverb I looked at the others, searching vainly for a sympathetic face. — Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted

More from Merriam-Webster on vain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vain

Nglish: Translation of vain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vain for Arabic Speakers

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