\ 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 The dentist himself is an unlovely specimen — racist, ungenerous and vain — a man whose two ruling goals are to become a Freemason and to continue his blood line. Katherine A. Powers, Washington Post, "Gore Vidal’s ‘Lincoln’ and other best audiobooks for summer’s end," 29 Aug. 2019 More than a dozen migrants jumped overboard on Tuesday alone, news reports said, in a vain attempt to swim the roughly three miles ashore. New York Times, "After Desperate Migrants Jump Ship, Italy Allows Rescue Vessel to Dock," 20 Aug. 2019 As Davis recounted in his 1998 book, Shadows in the Sun, the Inuit man's family had taken away his tools in a vain attempt to persuade him to leave the ice and join them in a settlement. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Knives made of frozen feces don’t make the cut, disproving well-known legend," 16 Sep. 2019 But Schulz soon began fleshing out his cast with more eccentric, more specific, more driven characters: Schroeder, piano prodigy and Beethoven superfan; Lucy, vain fussbudget and perpetually aggrieved scold; Linus, thumb-sucking philosopher. Bruce Handy, The Atlantic, "The Peanuts Characters Aren’t Ordinary Kids," 29 Aug. 2019 Her parents and a brother spent last week visiting the site, beseeching investigators, Red Cross workers and the carrier’s chief executive in an ultimately vain effort to retrieve any remains or belongings. ... Andy Pasztor, WSJ, "With Personal Connection to Crash, Ralph Nader Takes on Boeing," 20 Mar. 2019 More broadly, the movement is trying to show that being an internet creator is not merely a vain pursuit of fame, but an actual job that requires a lot of work—which should come with workers’ rights. Michelle Cheng, Quartz at Work, "Union pushes at places like YouTube and WeWork could transform white-collar work," 1 Sep. 2019 The vainest city honor belonged to the Big Apple where New Yorkers spend an average of 38 minutes dolling up. Johnny Diaz, sun-sentinel.com, "You’re so vain South Florida, report says," 29 Aug. 2019 Administration officials continue to look in vain for signs that Beijing will agree to rewrite Chinese laws governing core issues in the trade dispute, Pillsbury said. Damian Paletta, Washington Post, "Trump insists trade talks have restarted with China, but details are elusive," 26 Aug. 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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Statistics for vain

Last Updated

2 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for vain

The first known use of vain was in the 14th century

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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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