from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Not yielding the desired outcome; fruitless: a vain attempt.
  • adj. Lacking substance or worth: vain talk.
  • adj. Excessively proud of one's appearance or accomplishments; conceited.
  • adj. Archaic Foolish.
  • idiom in vain To no avail; without success: Our labor was in vain.
  • idiom in vain In an irreverent or disrespectful manner: took the Lord's name in vain.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. overly proud of oneself, especially when concerning appearance
  • adj. having very little substance
  • adj. effecting no purpose; pointless, futile.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying.
  • adj. Destitute of force or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual.
  • adj. Proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments; having a high opinion of one's own accomplishments with slight reason; conceited; puffed up; inflated.
  • adj. Showy; ostentatious.
  • n. Vanity; emptiness; -- now used only in the phrase in vain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Having no real value or importance; worthless; unsubstantial; empty; trivial; idle.
  • Producing no good result; destitute of force or efficacy; fruitless; ineffectual; useless; futile; unavailing.
  • Light-minded; foolish; silly.
  • Proud of petty things or of trifling attainments or accomplishments; elated with a high opinion of one's personal appearance, manners, or the like; courting the admiration or applause of others; conceited; self-complacent; also, proceeding from or marked by such pride or conceit: as, to be vain of one's figure or one's dress.
  • Showy; ostentatious; pretentious.
  • Bootless, abortive.
  • See egotism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unproductive of success
  • adj. characteristic of false pride; having an exaggerated sense of self-importance


Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vānus, empty.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old French vain, from Latin vānus ("empty") (Wiktionary)



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    February 15, 2013