vanity

noun
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

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

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 This is a quick and easy, convenient solution to post-shave irritation; they can be stored in a pocket or a bag, thrown in the glove-box, kept on your vanity, or even in your desk at work. The Salt Lake Tribune, 12 May 2022 Yet the movie’s dominant strain is a strange vanity, as if embracing a God’s-eye view that the filmmaker somehow shares. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 11 May 2022 In Massachusetts, vanity plates must have at least two letters and contain no more than six characters. Emily Sweeney, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Mar. 2022 Taking pictures of vanity plates is one of Acuña’s joys in life. New York Times, 24 Jan. 2022 The Dermaflash Luxe exfoliating tool is now $50 off, too., and other items on sale at the moment include vanity mirrors and stylers. Andrea Navarro, Glamour, 11 May 2022 For a small storage update, incorporate a mix of baskets and bins to divide vanity drawers and cabinets. Nafeesah Allen, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 May 2022 Of course, a fraction of this stems from vanity, but the majority of those compelled to take said action do so to maximize their potential value to a brand. Solo Ceesay, Rolling Stone, 10 May 2022 Life now seems too short to waste on theme-park musicals and shows that are being revived for the sake of audience nostalgia or artist vanity. Charles Mcnultytheater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2022 See More

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.

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

Buying Guide

Get organized with the best storage bins selected by our Reviews team.

Learn More About vanity

Time Traveler for vanity

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near vanity

vanitous

vanity

vanity bag

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

26 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vanity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vanity. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for vanity

vanity

noun
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

More from Merriam-Webster on vanity

Nglish: Translation of vanity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vanity for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!