[fyoot-l, fyoo-tahyl]


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 formsfu·tile·ly, adverbfu·tile·ness, nounnon·fu·tile, adjectiveun·fu·tile, adjective

Synonyms for futile

1. See useless.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for futile

Contemporary Examples of futile

Historical Examples of futile

  • The effort to make them "disgorge" is as continual as it is noisy, and, as a rule, futile.

    'Tis Sixty Years Since

    Charles Francis Adams

  • So, she fought no more, but left destiny to work its will unhampered by her futile strivings.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • But his well-meant attempt to assuage the stricken creature's wo was futile.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He felt suddenly young and futile; his just rage turned to blustering in his ears.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • He should therefore smile at the futile attempt to excite his jealousy.

British Dictionary definitions for futile



having no effective result; unsuccessful
pointless; unimportant; trifling
inane or foolishdon't be so futile!
Derived Formsfutilely, adverbfutileness, noun

Word Origin for futile

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

Word Origin and History for futile

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