View synonyms for vain


[ veyn ]


, vain·er, vain·est.
  1. excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited:

    a vain dandy.

    Synonyms: overweening, arrogant, proud, vainglorious, self-complacent, egotistic

    Antonyms: humble

  2. proceeding from or showing pride in or concern about one's appearance, qualities, etc.; resulting from or displaying vanity:

    He made some vain remarks about his accomplishments.

  3. ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile:

    vain hopes;

    a vain effort;

    a vain war.

    Synonyms: unavailing, fruitless

    Antonyms: useful

  4. without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless:

    vain pageantry;

    vain display.

    Synonyms: nugatory, trifling, trivial

  5. Archaic. senseless or foolish.


/ veɪn /


  1. inordinately proud of one's appearance, possessions, or achievements
  2. given to ostentatious display, esp of one's beauty
  3. worthless
  4. senseless or futile


  1. in vain
    to no avail; fruitlessly
  2. take someone's name in vain
    1. to use the name of someone, esp God, without due respect or reverence
    2. to mention someone's name

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Derived Forms

  • ˈvainness, noun
  • ˈvainly, adverb

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Other Words From

  • vain·ly adverb
  • vain·ness noun
  • un·vain· adjective
  • un·vain·ness noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of vain1

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vānus “empty, vain”

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Word History and Origins

Origin of vain1

C13: via Old French from Latin vānus

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. in vain,
    1. without effect or avail; to no purpose:

      lives lost in vain;

      to apologize in vain.

    2. in an improper or irreverent manner:

      to take God's name in vain.

More idioms and phrases containing vain

see in vain ; take someone's name in vain .

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Synonym Study

See useless.

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Example Sentences

Looming over all of this are Sirhan’s supporters who say he did not shoot Kennedy, and who have raised that issue in vain both in the California courts and in parole hearings.

It seems like everything was in vain, everything we have done.

We still struggled—often in vain—for meaningful inclusion in policy, science, news and entertainment relating to our lives.

From Time

Everything that happened, in my opinion, was in vain because nothing about the situation changed.

That year, his mother had tried in vain to procure a special education plan for him.

Asserting our right to free speech is the only to ensure that 12 people did not die in vain.

In vain, fishermen waited for the sea to come back: there were no fish, there was no money for their families.

In many engagements volunteers asked regular army commanders for support, transport and ammunition, but often in vain.

Faulkner, Whitman, and Dickinson did not labor in vain; their books live on, horizontally, stacked like bricks in a display case.

Fonda tried in vain to convince Jarrow and Archer to ditch the project.

Vain also was the valour and ability he showed in the campaign against the Royalists in La Vende.

The hopes of a man that is void of understanding are vain and deceitful: and dreams lift up fools.

He went on, ruminating on the vain shadow, into which his over-heated ambition to act and to be distinguished, had involved him.

He came back in due time, but bringing nothing for me, and I felt that my appeal had been in vain.

After looking for them in vain down below he had feared that they might have found their way into the open air.


Related Words

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.