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

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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 creation of the front facing camera was the biggest thing to happen to vanity since Narcissus fell into the river. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "“Fashion For Bank Robbers” Is an Insta-Obsession for the Anti-Selfie Set," 17 Apr. 2019 Petty Leaks First, there are vanity leaks, designed primarily to curry favor, win personal rivalries, or protect one’s reputation. Nicholas Zimmerman, Daily Intelligencer, "Why Washington Insiders Decide to Leak," 16 May 2018 Holmes, on the other hand, went eclectic with a denim trench, Madewell cropped jeans, and a Chanel vanity case in lipstick red. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx Share This Incognito Style Must-Have," 28 Mar. 2019 Beyoncé gifted the museum a Papillon ring by Glenn Spiro, and Freddie Mercury's sister Kashmira Bulsara has offered her collection of Art Deco vanity cases in Mercury's memory. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Queen Victoria's Stunning Crown Is Set to Go on View at the V&A Museum," 5 Feb. 2019 The Ballard’s second level features a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, a master bath with dual vanities and a separate frameless shower. Toll Brothers, The Seattle Times, "6 homes remain at community near Microsoft," 29 Mar. 2019 The amazing master suite has a gas fireplace to keep you toasty on those crisp Tennessee evenings, his and hers vanities, and a walk through shower. Cator Sparks, House Beautiful, "Carrie Underwood Is Selling Her Tennessee Home," 11 Mar. 2019 In other words, Poseidon is less a doomsday torpedo, more a vanity project to impress the neighbors. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, "The Truth Behind Russia’s 'Apocalypse Torpedo'," 18 Jan. 2019 And the number of man-hours the average super-hot person spends maintaining their appearance suggests an earnest level of both hard work and vanity. Anna Peele, GQ, "Introducing the Hot-Funny Guy Matrix," 12 Apr. 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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Learn More about vanity

Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

16 May 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

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 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

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