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 People’s vanity is personal to them but hair is just the catalyst that brought them here. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "Johnny Wright Talks Catching Bad Beauticians And Beauty Redemptions," 25 May 2020 But what doctors say is an illness, the state characterizes as vanity. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, "The case against Brooke Skylar Richardson," 23 May 2020 In the master bathroom, large his-and-her closets attach to a bathroom that features a large bathtub and two vanities. Mary Grace Metheny, Dallas News, "Peek inside the five-bedroom Dallas home of Bush Center CEO Ken Hersh," 21 May 2020 In hypermagnified vanity portraits, the coronavirus that stopped humanity in its tracks this winter looks like the fearsome head of a medieval morning star, fit to kill in a gory blunt-force-puncture attack. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "Metaphors Matter in a Time of Pandemic," 19 May 2020 Here's your chance to grab a few that stuck out or just add a little variety to your vanity table, so don't be afraid to try it out. Shayna Murphy, USA TODAY, "Birchbox is offering extra discounts on top-rated beauty items," 13 May 2020 Before the renovation, Marix’s bathroom featured two separate dark wood vanities and two ornate mirrors on the wall. Eden Lichterman, Southern Living, "How One Southern Influencer Completely Redesigned Her Bathroom on a Budget," 12 May 2020 Huffman's vanity-free performance balances charm and toxicity. cleveland, "Smartly scripted ‘Tammy’s Always Dying’ pits mother and daughter in toxic cycle," 4 May 2020 The master bath includes double sinks, a half-bath, Hollywood bath, separate shower and vanity area. Emilia Benton, Houston Chronicle, "Prime property: Mediterranean resort-style home brings flair to The Woodlands," 2 May 2020

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

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vanity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for vanity


How to pronounce vanity (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vanity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vanity

Spanish Central: Translation of vanity

Nglish: Translation of vanity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vanity for Arabic Speakers

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