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

Features in the house include 3 1/2 baths, a kitchen with concrete countertops and cherry cabinets, a new furnace, newer roof, third-floor master suite with a custom shower and double vanity, and a lower level with a full guest suite. Bob Goldsborough,, "Former pro hockey player Colin Greening, headed to Harvard, sells farmhouse-style Lakeview home for $1.09 million," 8 July 2019 The master bathroom is luxuriously appointed with travertine floors, a jetted tub, dual vanities, an oversize shower with dual showerheads and skylights. Monica Lander, The Mercury News, "Sponsored: One of a Kind: Amazing Alamo custom home with Lamorinda vibe," 8 July 2019 The master bathroom is adorned with marble floors, a soaking tub, a spacious seamless shower, double vanities, a separate water closet and a built-in television., "Property of the Week: 38 Brian Lane, Avon," 5 July 2019 In the bathroom, the mirror and oak vanity, built by a local millworker, are also custom. Samantha Swenson, ELLE Decor, "This is the Most Ingenious Studio Apartment You'll Ever See," 28 June 2019 Save up to 80 percent on categories like furniture, area rugs, bathroom vanities, storage and organization, and more, going on now. Brittney Morgan, House Beautiful, "Here's Where to Find the Best 4th of July Sales This Year," 26 June 2019 The earnest vanity that serves as the engine of Instagram seems generally harmless, sweetly human. Collier Meyerson, WIRED, "Instagram Is Sweet and Sort of Boring—but the Ads!," 24 June 2019 Social media is about ego and vanity, and little else. Joseph Goodman |,, "How Bart Starr, the writer, affected so many," 10 June 2019 And was General de Gaulle’s insistence on claiming a French share of the fight, despite the absence of French troops, a mad act of vanity, or a sage realization of the necessity of keeping a battle fought in France at least symbolically French? Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Europe and America Seventy-Five Years After D Day," 6 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

11 Jul 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).


a small bunch of flowers

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