\ 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 you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain — Deuteronomy 5:11 (Revised Standard Version)

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Other Words from vain

vainly adverb
vainness \ ˈvān-​nəs How to pronounce vainness (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 But those two goals would’ve been scored in vain if not for Luis Robles' play during a bizarre sequence. Khobi Price, sun-sentinel.com, "Morgan picks up slack as Inter Miami ends scoreless skid, tops Atlanta United for second win," 9 Sep. 2020 His effort is in vain, however, with the Ravens fast defense proving too much for the Colts, who are forced to settle for field goals on four of their trips into Baltimore territory. Jim Ayello, The Indianapolis Star, "Can Philip Rivers lead Colts back to playoffs? Insiders predict outcome of all 16 games," 9 Sep. 2020 Search teams tried in vain but never found Sisof or her body. Mark Thiessen, Star Tribune, "Cold case units focus on missing, murdered Indigenous women," 26 Aug. 2020 While ever a state of feeling such as this shall universally, or even very generally, prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom. Star Tribune, "Abraham Lincoln: America's greatest danger is the 'mobocratic spirit'," 28 Aug. 2020 There have been several media accounts of patients dying after being unable to navigate the fractured permitting system, including 22-year-old Jalal Shrafi whose family tried in vain to get him into Israel for cancer treatment. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "Israel halted annexation plans, but Palestinians are not ready to restore ties," 28 Aug. 2020 Search teams tried in vain but never found Sisof or her body. Mark Thiessen, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage cold case office joins 6 others across US focusing on missing and murdered Indigenous women," 27 Aug. 2020 Coming down here and making a choice to play was supposed to not be in vain. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Raptors' Fred VanVleet suggests NBA boycott after Jacob Blake shooting: 'What are we willing to give up?'," 25 Aug. 2020 Joseph made several visits to Washington, D.C., to plead for a return to the Wallowa country, but his pleas were in vain. oregonlive, "A potentially rare autograph, carnival glass, Japanese vases: What are they worth?," 5 Aug. 2020

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

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vain. Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for vain

How to pronounce vain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of vain

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

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