Definition of nugatory
- The law was unenforced and thus rendered nugatory.
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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
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").
First Known Use: 1603See Words from the same year
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having a quality expressive of sadness
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