\ 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 Among the concessions to which the dictatorship agreed in a vain attempt to quell the unrest was the return of some of the exiles. Ariel Dorfman, The New York Review of Books, "Chile: Notes from a Revolt," 13 Mar. 2020 Their history encompassed the process of rupture that has made the modern Middle East so combustible, and had led me to study Arabic and Hebrew at university in a vain attempt to overcome the dislocation of the past. The Economist, "Trapped in Iran," 28 Jan. 2020 On March 18, as the pandemic deepened, the American Clinical Laboratory Association appealed in vain to congressional leaders to include $5 billion in legislation to help private laboratories meet growing demand for tests and analysis. Anchorage Daily News, "Virus hot spots clamor for quick tests; administration officials debate where to send them," 2 Apr. 2020 McBride likes characters who mask their insecurities with a vain hyper-masculinity; exaggerated Southern guys on the edge of self-ruin. Washington Post, "‘Righteous Gemstones’ misses a golden opportunity to satirize evangelical piety," 16 Aug. 2019 Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them. Shannon Doyne, New York Times, "Is It Immoral to Increase the Price of Goods During a Crisis?," 16 Mar. 2020 First, Mendelsohn, a longtime associate of Michôd’s, turns the usually mordant Henry IV into a vain paranoiac entirely unworthy of the crown. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The King Makes a Dreary Muddle of an Epic Drama," 11 Oct. 2019 In vain his lawyer cited official guidance suggesting that Chinese who studied overseas were allowed two children. The Economist, "China needs people to have more children. So why punish those who do?," 5 Dec. 2019 Americans were obsessed with trying — largely in vain — to get ahead of inflation. Chicago Tribune, Twin Cities, "Other voices: High inflation? What’s that? Volcker’s legacy," 12 Dec. 2019

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

17 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vain. Accessed 28 May. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on vain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vain

Spanish Central: Translation of vain

Nglish: Translation of vain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vain for Arabic Speakers

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