vanity

noun
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

vanity

adjective

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

The Trump team’s response to the Clifford debacle seems to have been driven by the President’s vanity, temper, and resentment. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "What Went Wrong in the Stormy Daniels Case," 17 Mar. 2018 Actually, for a decade or so, partly on the success of the red cup, what plopped out of Solo was a show business vanity project, starring a Chicago singer named Dora Hall. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, "That red plastic cup is a Chicago original. Proceed to party.," 29 June 2018 As opposed to frivolous vanity projects, like the bullet train to O'Hare. Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, "Politics / Transportation Another whopper from Rahm: express service to O'Hare that won’t cost the public," 18 June 2018 Many global firms succumbed to indiscipline and poured money into vanity projects abroad. The Economist, "Canaries in the coal mine," 14 June 2018 Down lighting shines light into dark spaces beneath shelves or cabinets, and creates a floating effect under vanities. Maria Frank, Houston Chronicle, "GHBA Remodelers Council: Integrated lighting," 6 Apr. 2018 But for Ellison, Lanai seems to be more than just a vanity project. Hannah Seligson, Town & Country, "Larry Ellison Wants Lanai to Be the Most Incredible Resort in the World," 7 Apr. 2017 Cultured stone tops the bathroom vanities and bathroom floors are finished in ceramic tile. Tony Bacewicz, courant.com, "West River Farms, East Windsor," 28 June 2018 Handcrafted and presented in individual leather cases, the combs are an Instagram-worthy addition to any vanity. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Byredo’s New Keepsake Combs Pay Tribute to Africa’s Beloved Queens," 13 July 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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Adjective

circa 1925, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vanity

Noun

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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Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

3 Oct 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

vanity

noun

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

vanity

noun
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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