adjective, vain·er, vain·est.
- without effect or avail; to no purpose: lives lost in vain; to apologize in vain.
- in an improper or irreverent manner: to take God's name in vain.
Origin of vain
Examples from the Web for vain
Asserting our right to free speech is the only to ensure that 12 people did not die in vain.Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Our Duty Is to Keep Charlie Hebdo Alive|Ayaan Hirsi Ali|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
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.Bitter Survivors and Caravans of Coffins from Ukraine’s “Eastern Boiler”|Anna Nemtsova|September 14, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Faulkner, Whitman, and Dickinson did not labor in vain; their books live on, horizontally, stacked like bricks in a display case.A Teacher Returns to the Classroom and Gets Schooled|Nick Romeo|September 1, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Fonda tried in vain to convince Jarrow and Archer to ditch the project.Anne Archer: Women in Hollywood Are Doomed Forever|Nico Hines|August 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST
At his purposes with regard to the relations of England and Normandy it would be vain to guess.William the Conqueror|Edward Augustus Freeman
In vain my mother took a world of trouble to explain the thing to me.The Essays of "George Eliot"|George Eliot
I learned later that he had implored the Superior on his knees not to lay this dreadful command upon him, but all in vain.The Monk and The Hangman's Daughter|Adolphe Danziger De Castro and Ambrose Bierce
But I have wrestled with misfortune in vain; I have struggled with want, till want has overcome me.Bentley's Miscellany, Volume II|Various
A request for whiskey addressed to a car containing a dozen men accustomed to wrest metals from the earth was not in vain.The Penalty|Gouverneur Morris
British Dictionary definitions for vain
- to use the name of someone, esp God, without due respect or reverence
- jocular to mention someone's name
Word Origin for vain
Word Origin and History for vain
c.1300, "devoid of real value, idle, unprofitable," from Old French vein "worthless," from Latin vanus "idle, empty," from PIE *wa-no-, from root *eue- "to leave, abandon, give out" (cf. Old English wanian "to lessen," wan "deficient;" Old Norse vanta "to lack;" Latin vacare "to be empty," vastus "empty, waste;" Avestan va- "lack," Persian vang "empty, poor;" Sanskrit una- "deficient"). Meaning "conceited" first recorded 1690s, from earlier sense of "silly, idle, foolish" (late 14c.). Phrase in vain "to no effect" (c.1300, after Latin in vanum) preserves the original sense. Related: Vainly.
Idioms and Phrases with vain
see in vain; take someone's name in vain.