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[geyn-fuh l] /ˈgeɪn fəl/
profitable; lucrative:
gainful employment.
Origin of gainful
First recorded in 1545-55; gain1 + -ful
Related forms
gainfully, adverb
gainfulness, noun
ungainful, adjective
ungainfully, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for gainful
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Historical Examples
  • One needs only to point out to them that the pursuit is gainful, and their interest is aroused.

    The Economist Xenophon
  • What was our status in the business pursuits and gainful occupations at that time?

  • The pursuit of gainful effort is as old as the existence of man on earth.


    William Graham Sumner
  • His gainful pursuit was that of being a commercial traveller.

    Local Color Irvin S. Cobb
  • Now Harald has got him east away, And each morrow of fight was a gainful day.

    Poems by the Way William Morris
  • More and more, however, individuals made their way in gainful occupations.

    Your Negro Neighbor Benjamin Brawley
  • The generality of white women in New York, wives of laboring men, infrequently engage in gainful occupations.

    Half a Man Mary White Ovington
  • Said the Sea-eagle: “Abide the wearing of another hour, and come and tell me again, and then I may have a gainful word for thee.”

  • The number of people in 1910 in what is called "gainful occupations" has not as yet been compiled by the Census Bureau.

British Dictionary definitions for gainful


profitable; lucrative: gainful employment
Derived Forms
gainfully, adverb
gainfulness, noun
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 gainful

1540s (implied in gainfully), from gain + -ful. Phrase gainfully employed attested from 1796.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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