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

Noun The handsome actor's vanity was well-known. She described her accomplishments without exaggeration or vanity.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In 2014, Davis delivered a memorable performance in an early How to Get Away With Murder episode that is indicative of her ability to eschew vanity. Emma Fraser, Vulture, "How Ma Rainey’s Oscar-Nominated Hair and Makeup Team Transformed Viola Davis," 21 Apr. 2021 Some question the wisdom of clawing into the earth simply for a vanity metal. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "California gold fever still reigns. New prospectors seek to reopen giant mine," 18 Apr. 2021 In the creator economy, passion and true connection supersede vanity metrics such as likes, views and impressions. Kian Bakhtiari, Forbes, "The Creator Economy, NFTs And Marketing," 18 Apr. 2021 During the wardrobe fitting for Netflix’s adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, lead actress Viola Davis challenged her glam squad to remove vanity from her transformation into becoming the legendary blues singer. Christopher A. Daniel, Vogue, "The Hair and Makeup Team Behind Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Making Oscars History," 14 Apr. 2021 This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. New York Times, "Why Buy a Yacht When You Can Buy a Newspaper?," 10 Apr. 2021 Story’s vanity license plate, 14CV88, alluded to a white supremacist slogan and a Hitler salute. Simone Weichselbaum And Joseph Neff, USA TODAY, "Hate speech cases are hard to win. So police, prosecutors use workarounds to jail white extremists," 1 Apr. 2021 Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost line is a covetable collection—every product deserving a place on your vanity. Southern Living, "The Best Skin-Care Products for Your 30s," 9 Apr. 2021 After finishing Buly Eau Superfine rose toner, this writer keeps it on her vanity filled with flowers. Paige Stables, Allure, "Interior Design Ideas From 5 of the World's Prettiest Beauty Boutiques," 26 Mar. 2021

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

Time Traveler for vanity

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vanity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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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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Comments on vanity

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