van·​i·​ty | \ ˈva-nə-tē How to pronounce vanity (audio) \
plural vanities

Definition of vanity

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance : conceit
2 : something that is vain, empty, or valueless
b : a bathroom cabinet containing a sink and usually having a countertop
4 : the quality or fact of being vain
5 : a fashionable trifle or knickknack
b : a small case or handbag for toilet articles used by women



Definition of vanity (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or being a work (such as a book or recording) whose production cost is paid by the author or artist
2 : of, relating to, or being a showcase for a usually famous performer or artist who is often also the project's creator or driving force write, direct, and star in a vanity film

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Vanity vs. Pride

People often turn to the dictionary in search of the minute and subtle differences between two similar words. The closely related duo of vanity and pride, which overlap significantly in some respects yet differ in others, offer one such example. Putting aside such uses as pride referring to “a company of lions” and vanity meaning “a dressing table,” each of these words may refer to a state of excessive self-esteem. However, pride may also signify a feeling of satisfaction or happiness (either in oneself or on behalf of others) based on something that is well done; vanity is unlikely to be used in this manner. For a well-worded explanation of this distinction, we might look to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in which the character Mary opines: “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.”

Examples of vanity in a Sentence


The handsome actor's vanity was well-known. She described her accomplishments without exaggeration or vanity.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The President’s decision to go around Congress and take funding away from our military to support his vanity project is reckless and irresponsible. Sabrina Eaton,, "Democrats decry Trump for redirecting defense money to border wall; Pentagon says no Ohio projects affected," 4 Sep. 2019 Duravit’s Starck 1 Barrel vanity is also available in dark blue, and the unusual shape makes it a standout option. Washington Post, "Those moody blues: Inky hues saturate home decor," 27 Aug. 2019 All bedrooms are upstairs, and the master bath features double sinks, a bath and separate shower and vanity area. Emilia Benton, Houston Chronicle, "Custom-built home available in West University," 31 Aug. 2019 Korean skincare products are a staple on American vanities, and our routines are constantly expanding to accommodate the next big k-beauty discovery. Taylore Glynn, Harper's BAZAAR, "Eight Skin-Transforming Secrets from a Korean Facialist," 22 Aug. 2019 But that hasn't stopped anti-Trump Republicans from scrambling to map out potential campaigns, driven by varying mixes of duty, conservative ire, ambition, vanity and loathing for Trump. Author: Robert Costa, Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump critics eye GOP primary challenges - even if defeating him seems ‘daunting’," 22 Aug. 2019 Two bedrooms share a large bathroom with two separate vanities and tub/shower combination. Monica Lander, The Mercury News, "Sponsored: This classic, lovingly crafted home built by Branagh blends formality with all the comforts you desire," 21 Aug. 2019 There’s zeal but also a survivor’s earned vanity to some of the women’s stories. Lisa Kennedy, The Know, "Can they get an amen? Vintage Theatre goes to church with “Crowns: A Gospel Musical”," 5 July 2019 This is going to sting for a while, particularly given the now-very public shift in perception between the Knicks and Nets, the latter of whom now have a strong case as New York’s vanity franchise. Jeremy Woo,, "Kevin Durant Free Agency Losers: Where Do Runner-Ups Go From Here?," 30 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vanity.' 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 vanity


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


circa 1925, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vanity


Middle English vanite, borrowed from Anglo-French vanité, borrowed from Latin vānitāt-, vānitās "emptiness, lack of judgment, foolish pride," from vānus "empty, lacking content" + -itāt-, -itās -ity — more at wane entry 1

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Learn More about vanity

Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for vanity

The first known use of vanity was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for vanity



English Language Learners Definition of vanity

: the quality of people who have too much pride in their own appearance, abilities, achievements, etc. : the quality of being vain
: something (such as a belief or a way of behaving) which shows that you have too much pride in yourself, your social status, etc.
: a bathroom cabinet that is covered by a sink and a countertop


van·​i·​ty | \ ˈva-nə-tē How to pronounce vanity (audio) \
plural vanities

Kids Definition of vanity

1 : the quality or fact of being vain
2 : something that is vain
3 : a small box for cosmetics

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More from Merriam-Webster on vanity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vanity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vanity

Spanish Central: Translation of vanity

Nglish: Translation of vanity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vanity for Arabic Speakers

Comments on vanity

What made you want to look up vanity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to spread over or through

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