vac·​u·​ous ˈva-kyə-wəs How to pronounce vacuous (audio)
: emptied of or lacking content
: marked by lack of ideas or intelligence : stupid, inane
a vacuous mind
a vacuous movie
: devoid of serious occupation : idle
vacuously adverb
vacuousness noun

Did you know?

As you might have guessed, "vacuous" shares the same root as "vacuum"-the Latin adjective vacuus, meaning "empty." This root also gave us the noun "vacuity" (the oldest meaning of which is "an empty space") as well as the verb "evacuate" (originally meaning "to empty of contents"). Its predecessor, the verb "vacare," is also an ancestor of the words "vacation" and "vacancy" as well as "void." All of these words suggest an emptiness of space, or else a fleeing of people or things from one place to another. "Vacuous" appeared in English in the middle of the 17th century, at first literally describing something that was empty. It acquired its figurative usage, describing one who is lacking any substance of the mind, in the mid-1800s.

Choose the Right Synonym for vacuous

empty, vacant, blank, void, vacuous mean lacking contents which could or should be present.

empty suggests a complete absence of contents.

an empty bucket

vacant suggests an absence of appropriate contents or occupants.

a vacant apartment

blank stresses the absence of any significant, relieving, or intelligible features on a surface.

a blank wall

void suggests absolute emptiness as far as the mind or senses can determine.

a statement void of meaning

vacuous suggests the emptiness of a vacuum and especially the lack of intelligence or significance.

a vacuous facial expression

Examples of vacuous in a Sentence

a dull and vacuous movie He had a vacuous expression on his face.
Recent Examples on the Web The verses are vacuous, the insults have no teeth, and just when the whole thing seems to be leading up to a gigantic redemptive chorus, suddenly pop! Nate Jones, Vulture, 20 May 2024 Another weakness: some of the boneheaded, at times vacuous lyrics. Journal Sentinel, 18 Jan. 2024 On either side of Rapp’s Regina are her sidekicks: the approval-seeking Gretchen, played by Bebe Wood, and the charmingly vacuous Karen, played by the mononymous Avantika., 20 Dec. 2023 Like family feuds, squabbles among poets are too tedious to recount, but Wiman remembers being accused of commissioning too much prose, of privileging formalism over free verse, and of publishing vicious reviews and vacuous poetry. Casey Cep, The New Yorker, 4 Dec. 2023 The Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative, launched with backing from the British government, set guidelines to deter corporations from making vacuous claims about the benefits of offsetting. Heidi Blake, The New Yorker, 16 Oct. 2023 The series also earned James Marsden an Emmy nomination for playing a vacuous version of himself. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2023 But these are all generic classes of writing; samples turned out by humans in these categories often have a vacuous, robotic quality. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2023 The campaign has been all the more vacuous given that Republicans have put forth no actual solutions to crime that may be taking place, other than building more jails and throwing more people in them. Prem Thakker, The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vacuous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin vacuus "empty, unoccupied, idle" + -ous — more at vacuum entry 1

First Known Use

circa 1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of vacuous was circa 1660


Dictionary Entries Near vacuous

Cite this Entry

“Vacuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


vac·​u·​ous ˈvak-yə-wəs How to pronounce vacuous (audio)
: lacking ideas or intelligence
vacuously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on vacuous

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