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[fyoot-l, fyoo-tahyl] /ˈfyut l, ˈfyu taɪl/
incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful:
Attempting to force-feed the sick horse was futile.
trifling; frivolous; unimportant.
Origin of futile
1545-55; < Latin fūtilis, futtilis easily broken, vain, worthless, equivalent to fūt- (akin to fundere to pour, melt) + -ilis -ile
Related forms
futilely, adverb
futileness, noun
nonfutile, adjective
unfutile, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for futilely
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He had waited too often and futilely in the past for porcupines to unroll, to waste any more time.

    White Fang Jack London
  • futilely he beat and thrust with his arms against the pillarlike limb.

    Salvage in Space John Stewart Williamson
  • He caught a glimpse of Carmena futilely clutching for Slade's throat.

    Bloom of Cactus Robert Ames Bennet
  • Her shoulders heaved as—futilely—she strove to wrench her arms free.

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb
  • Maida's voice, futilely attempting to broadcast over the uproar.

    Tarrano the Conqueror Raymond King Cummings
  • She ran to the door and beat her fists against the steel, futilely and furiously.

  • He mumbled, futilely, "Well, if that's the way you feel about it!"

    We Can't Have Everything Rupert Hughes
British Dictionary definitions for futilely


having no effective result; unsuccessful
pointless; unimportant; trifling
inane or foolish: don't be so futile!
Derived Forms
futilely, adverb
futileness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin futtilis pouring out easily, worthless, from fundere to pour out
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for futilely



1550s, from Middle French futile, from Latin futilis "vain, worthless, futile," literally "pouring out easily" (of a vessel), hence "easily emptied, leaky, unreliable," from base of fundere "pour, melt," from PIE root *gheu- "to pour" (see found (v.2)). Related: Futilely.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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