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 Prices range from $102 for a single (24″x36″) vanity mirror in the least expensive frame style, to over $200, depending on the style and size. Marni Jameson,, 15 Oct. 2021 The lawyers representing the McMichaels have asked Walmsley to prohibit photos of a vanity license plate of the old Georgia state flag on the front of Travis McMichael’s pickup truck at the time of the shooting. Shaddi Abusaid, ajc, 15 Oct. 2021 Plus, the days of putting on makeup or washing your face in the dark can be a thing of the past thanks to this LED vanity mirror, which has been slashed by over $100. Amy Schulman,, 12 Oct. 2021 The burying of personal ambition and vanity in the service of the wider national will expressed at the ballot box is the pillar of any system of self-government by the people. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 7 Oct. 2021 This type of fleeting interaction, underscored by the vanity metrics that track it, is built into the core UX. Mike Donoghue, Fortune, 6 Oct. 2021 Quests to add graduate programs, research programs, professional degrees (and the rankings and prestige assumed to come all of these) are often pointless exercises in institutional vanity. David Rosowsky, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2021 So the vanity, that separation of those things started to come into my mind. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 18 Sep. 2021 The master bath is the one area of the house where Shawna decided to go with actual Carrara marble, installing it atop the standalone vanity and in the full shower that replaced the bathtub. Richard A. Marini, San Antonio Express-News, 13 Sep. 2021

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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Buying Guide

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Time Traveler for vanity

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near vanity



vanity bag

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Statistics for vanity

Last Updated

17 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vanity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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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.


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


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