- excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited: a vain dandy.
- 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.
- ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile: vain hopes; a vain effort; a vain war.
- without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless: vain pageantry; vain display.
- Archaic. senseless or foolish.
- in vain,
- 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
SynonymsSee more synonyms for vain on Thesaurus.com
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
In vain, fishermen waited for the sea to come back: there were no fish, there was no money for their families.The Aral Sea's Disappearing Act
October 4, 2014
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”
September 14, 2014
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
September 1, 2014
Fonda tried in vain to convince Jarrow and Archer to ditch the project.Anne Archer: Women in Hollywood Are Doomed Forever
August 19, 2014
Ambrose felt almost despairing as he heard in vain the last name.The Armourer's Prentices
Charlotte M. Yonge
But, bound as he was, we can understand why they looked in vain.Brave and Bold
Weary and restless with vain waiting, they looked from the doorway at the weather.Malbone
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
You look in vain for any outward signs of profligacy or debauchery.Sunday under Three Heads
O the words of kindness, all to be expressed in vain, that flowed from her lips!Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)
- inordinately proud of one's appearance, possessions, or achievements
- given to ostentatious display, esp of one's beauty
- senseless or futile
- in vain to no avail; fruitlessly
- take someone's name in vain
- to use the name of someone, esp God, without due respect or reverence
- jocularto mention someone's name
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.