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vain

[veyn]
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adjective, vain·er, vain·est.
  1. excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited: a vain dandy.
  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.
  4. without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless: vain pageantry; vain display.
  5. Archaic. senseless or foolish.
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Idioms
  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.
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Origin of vain

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French < Latin vānus empty, vain
Related formsvain·ly, adverbvain·ness, nounun·vain, adjectiveun·vain·ly, adverbun·vain·ness, noun
Can be confusedvain vane vein

Synonyms

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1. egotistical, self-complacent, vainglorious, proud, arrogant, overweening. 3. fruitless, unavailing. 4. unimportant, trivial, trifling, nugatory. See useless.

Antonyms

1. humble. 3. useful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vainest

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • No, but the girl does; she's the haughtiest and the vainest damsel in the province.

    That Boy Of Norcott's

    Charles James Lever

  • He was here in 1835, when he thought the American people were the vainest in the world of their country.

  • And the Germans, the vainest race in Europe, rose like catfish to the bait.

    Old Fogy

    James Huneker

  • The Fender told me one night I was the vainest creature he ever knew.

    Andiron Tales

    John Kendrick Bangs

  • I used to be so pleased with being myself—I was the vainest creature that ever lived.

    Rita

    Laura E. Richards


British Dictionary definitions for vainest

vain

adjective
  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
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noun
  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. jocularto mention someone's name
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Derived Formsvainly, adverbvainness, noun

Word Origin

C13: via Old French from Latin vānus
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 vainest

vain

adj.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with vainest

vain

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

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