nu·​ga·​to·​ry | \ ˈnü-gə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce nugatory (audio) , ˈnyü- \

Definition of nugatory

1 : of little or no consequence : trifling, inconsequential comments too nugatory to merit attention
2 : having no force : inoperative The law was unenforced and thus rendered nugatory.

Synonyms & Antonyms for nugatory



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Choose the Right Synonym for nugatory

vain, nugatory, otiose, idle, empty, hollow mean being without worth or significance. vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value. vain promises nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance. a monarch with nugatory powers otiose suggests that something serves no purpose and is either an encumbrance or a superfluity. a film without a single otiose scene idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect. idle speculations empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or soundness or genuineness. an empty attempt at reconciliation a hollow victory

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Nugatory, which first appeared in English in the 17th century, comes from the Latin adjective nugatorius and is ultimately a derivative of the noun nugae, meaning "trifles." Like its synonyms vain, idle, empty, and hollow, nugatory means "without worth or significance." But while nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance ("a monarch with nugatory powers," for example), vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value (as in "vain promises"). Idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect (as in "idle speculations"). Empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or genuineness (as in "an empty attempt at reconciliation" or "a hollow victory").

Examples of nugatory in a Sentence

the congressional resolution has symbolic value only, as it relates to a matter governed by the states and is thus nugatory the book is entertaining, but its contributions to Shakespearean scholarship are nugatory
Recent Examples on the Web But the benefits to Russia longer term could be nugatory. W. James Antle Iii, The Week, 4 Mar. 2022 It could be used to rationalize stealing the pennies from a dead man’s eyes, true, even considering the nugatory value of the contemporary penny. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, 27 May 2020 Yet all of these questions seem, increasingly, merely nostalgic, nugatory, in the face of the dissolution of the common solidarity of principles that had once made the liberation happen. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 6 June 2019

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

First Known Use of nugatory

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nugatory

Latin nugatorius, from nugari to trifle, from nugae trifles

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The first known use of nugatory was in 1603

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Cite this Entry

“Nugatory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for nugatory


nu·​ga·​to·​ry | \ ˈnü-gə-ˌtōr-ē, ˈnyü- How to pronounce nugatory (audio) \

Legal Definition of nugatory

: being without operative legal effect held that such an interpretation would render the statute nugatory

History and Etymology for nugatory

Latin nugatorius, from nugari to trifle, from nugae trifles


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