vain

adjective
\ 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 Being a religion writer, I have always tried to avoid using the Lord's name in vain. I have not always succeeded.— Don Lattin — see also take in vain

Other Words from vain

vainly adverb
vainness \ ˈvān-​nəs How to pronounce vain (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The bulk of available evidence hints that Drake’s great quest may not be in vain; data indicate most stars harbor a retinue of worlds. Lee Billings, Scientific American, 6 Sep. 2022 My frantic and near-constant playlisting is not in vain, though. Sarah Madaus, SELF, 2 Sep. 2022 Thomas' family hopes the changes in the law will save lives and ensure their daughter's death wasn't in vain. Farnoush Amiri, ajc, 2 Sep. 2022 The series also features Hillary canoeing with a reformed white supremacist, Chelsea trying (in vain) to learn to surf, and the two of them putting paint brush to canvas with Megan Thee Stallion beside her backyard pool. Amanda Taylor, Peoplemag, 31 Aug. 2022 Those efforts proved in vain, partially because of the salary owed to Garoppolo, and partly because of the uncertainty of his recovery. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, 29 Aug. 2022 The series stars Spider-Man franchise actor Jacob Batalon and is set in a world populated by beautiful, fit and vain vampires. Clark Collis, EW.com, 14 July 2022 Still, Johnson keeps it entertaining as a wine-loving 19th-century Englishwoman reunited with the one who got away – a vulnerable Navy captain played by the impressive Cosmo Jarvis – while also being wooed by a vain yet handsome gentleman (Golding). Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 14 July 2022 Julia is spiky and vain, a queen bee with an attitude. Natalia Winkelman, BostonGlobe.com, 29 June 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near vain

vail

vain

vainglorious

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Statistics for vain

Last Updated

23 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vain. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for vain

vain

adjective
\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on vain

Nglish: Translation of vain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vain for Arabic Speakers

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