\ i-ˈnān How to pronounce inane (audio) \
inaner; inanest

Definition of inane

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : lacking significance, meaning, or point : silly inane comments



Definition of inane (Entry 2 of 2)

: void or empty space a voyage into the limitless inane— V. G. Childe

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from inane


inanely adverb
inaneness \ i-​ˈnān-​nəs How to pronounce inane (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for inane

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for inane


insipid, vapid, flat, jejune, banal, inane mean devoid of qualities that make for spirit and character. insipid implies a lack of sufficient taste or savor to please or interest. an insipid romance with platitudes on every page vapid suggests a lack of liveliness, force, or spirit. an exciting story given a vapid treatment flat applies to things that have lost their sparkle or zest. although well-regarded in its day, the novel now seems flat jejune suggests a lack of rewarding or satisfying substance. a jejune and gassy speech banal stresses the complete absence of freshness, novelty, or immediacy. a banal tale of unrequited love inane implies a lack of any significant or convincing quality. an inane interpretation of the play

Can inane Be Used As a Noun?


The adjective "inane" is now most commonly encountered as a synonym of "shallow" or "silly." But when this word first entered the English language in the early 17th century, it was used to mean "empty" or "insubstantial." It was this older sense that gave rise, in the latter half of the 17th century, to the noun "inane," which often serves as a poetic reference to the void of space ("the illimitable inane," "the limitless inane," "the incomprehensible inane"). This noun usage has not always been viewed in a favorable light. Samuel Johnson, in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), says of "inane" that "it is used licentiously for a substantive," which in current English means that it is used as a noun without regard to the rules.

Examples of inane in a Sentence

Adjective All around us swirls the battering of gargantuan films, Styrofoam epics with megatons of special effects, gleefully inane adolescent films, horror films that really are horrible. — Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic, 15 Mar. 2004 The surfeit of home runs is a sop to all the Philistines who require inane diversions like programmed races between electronic dots on the scoreboard to make it through a two-hit shutout. — Nicholas Dawidoff, New York Times Magazine, 4 Apr. 1999 Though feminist leaders are mostly aligned with those sentiments, they can't separate their quest for economic equity from the inane political correctness of their extremist sisters. — Mary Matalin, Newsweek, 25 Oct. 1993 I quickly tired of their inane comments. The film's plot is inane and full of clichés. Noun And thus likewise we sometimes speak of place, distance, or bulk in the great inane beyond the confines of the world. — John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1689
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Weeks after an inane op-ed arguing that Jill Biden, who earned a doctorate in education, is not qualified to identify as a doctor, the future first lady’s professional status is somehow still under discussion. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | LAUREN A. WRIGHT: Profiling the perfect first lady," 4 Jan. 2021 Others drew on equally weak depictions in other movies or shows, leading to an inane feedback loop. Reid Singer, New York Times, "How Should Black People Sound?," 28 Oct. 2020 The more moderate candidates, including Joe Biden, attacked single-payer with criticisms that often veered into the territory of inane lies. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "Health Care Reform Is Being Slashed Into Oblivion," 21 Aug. 2020 That example, as an instrument of persuasion, was inane: in October 2011, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown by rebels assisted by US and NATO forces, chased into a drainage pipe, and executed. Jonathan Stevenson, The New York Review of Books, "Revenge Served Tepid," 3 Aug. 2020 It's denoted by 550T badging, according to Cadillac's relatively new and inane method of categorization by peak torque in newton-meters. Annie White, Car and Driver, "2020 Cadillac CT5 V-6 Gives Us Reason to Hope," 8 June 2020 The show not only provided a welcome reprieve from a tough day in the laboratory, but also fueled fun debates among us students as to whether the inane scenarios were plausible. Bill Sullivan, The Conversation, "Science of ‘Seinfeld’," 5 June 2020 Like much of Doremus’ work, Endings, Beginnings is largely improvised, but the inane dialogue is a testament to the benefit of working from a full script. Mary Sollosi,, "Endings, Beginnings," 17 Apr. 2020 Bizarre found footage on tour (Photo: Erik Ljung) Pranksters Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett spend most of their waking hours sorting through old VHS tapes in search of inane, embarrassing and downright bizarre video moments. Greg Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's Top 10: Found footage fest, Snoop Dogg, Novi Home Show, 'Sesame Street Live!'," 22 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Not until Page 672 does Obama mention him by name, in a passage on the inane 2011 controversy over his birthplace. Dallas News, "Barack Obama’s memoir is a masterful lament over the fragility of hope," 18 Nov. 2020 Not until page 672 does Obama mention him by name, in a passage on the inane 2011 controversy over his birthplace. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Barack Obama’s memoir is a masterful lament over the fragility of hope," 16 Nov. 2020 How did Emily manage to quadruple her Instagram following in a few days with such inane, cliched posts? Washington Post, "25 questions we have after watching ‘Emily in Paris,’ Lily Collins’s utterly baffling new Netflix series," 6 Oct. 2020 The parts that fell the flattest were holdovers from traditional awards shows, like inane banter between presenters. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "Thanks to COVID-19, a virtual hit-and-miss Emmy Awards were weird — but perfectly fitting," 21 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inane.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of inane


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1677, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inane

Adjective and Noun

Latin inanis

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inane

Time Traveler for inane

Time Traveler

The first known use of inane was in 1662

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about inane

Statistics for inane

Last Updated

10 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for inane


How to pronounce inane (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inane

: very silly or stupid


\ i-ˈnān How to pronounce inane (audio) \

Kids Definition of inane

: silly and pointless inane remarks

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on inane

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!