van·​i·​ty | \ˈva-nə-tē \
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

3a : dressing table

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

6a : compact entry 3 sense a

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

People inherently pass judgment on things used by a traditionally female cohort, especially when it’s perceived to be something for vanity. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "Dyson’s new $500 golden hair dryer, explained," 29 Aug. 2018 The difference is that a lot of times, losing weight tends to be for vanity. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "'RuPaul's Drag Race' Eliminated Queen Talks Calling Out Fans, Being 'Low-Key Nerdy' & More," 30 Mar. 2018 What the Perfect Male Body Looks Like Now news & culture The Importance of Rudeness But body positivity and rational exercise regimens are no antidote for vanity. Clay Skipper, GQ, "What the Perfect Male Body Looks Like Now," 25 Feb. 2018 Kenzo’s new floral fragrance is another objet for your vanity, thanks to its pale blue evil-eye bottle with gold logo-charm pupil. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "The Only 14 Beauty Products You Need to Buy This Fall," 6 Sep. 2016 At your house, bottles of eau de parfum aren't solely reserved for vanities. Sarah Bray, House Beautiful, "11 Signs You're Meant To Live In Paris," 23 Apr. 2014 More than an issue of vanity, the biggest problem with the lumpy growths is the pain., "The First Episode Of Dr. Pimple Popper Is A Popaholic's Dream Come True," 12 July 2018 Up the glam factor by adding something mirrored to the mix, such as a vanity. Danielle Blundell, ELLE Decor, "5 Spring Trends to Spruce Up Your Space," 9 Apr. 2018 Don't miss: A floating, narrow wall in the middle of the master suite that has a vanity on one side and a second bar on the other. Janet Eastman,, "Step into a swank 'Mad Men'-era conversation pit: A round midcentury modern landed in Eugene (photos)," 21 Mar. 2018

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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Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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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 \
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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Comments on vanity

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by force of circumstances

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