Definitions

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

  • adj. Lacking in utility or serviceability; not useful.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. useless; unprofitable

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Useless; unprofitable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Unprofitable; useless.
  • n. A useless thing.

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

  • adj. not worth using

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin inūtilis : in-, not; see in-1 + ūtilis, useful; see utile.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin inutilis: compare French inutile. See in- not, utile. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Composing scales beside the rails
    That flanked a field of corn,
    A farmer’s boy with vicious joy
    Performed upon a horn:
    The vagrant airs, the fragrant airs
    Around that field that strayed,
    Took flight before the flagrant airs
    That noisome urchin played.

    He played with care “The Maiden’s Prayer;�?
    He played “God Save the Queen,�?
    “Die Wacht am Rhein,�? and “Auld Lang Syne,�?
    And “Wearing of the Green:�?
    With futile toots, and brutal toots,
    And shrill chromatic scales,
    And utterly inutile toots,
    And agonizing wails.

    The while he played, around him strayed,
    And calmly chewed the cud,
    Some thirty-nine assorted kine,
    All ankle-deep in mud:
    They stamped about and tramped about
    That mud, till all the troupe
    Made noises, as they ramped about,
    Like school-boys eating soup.

    Till, growing bored, with one accord
    They broke the fence forlorn:
    The field was doomed. The cows consumed
    Two-thirds of all the corn,
    And viciously, maliciously,
    Went prancing o’er the loam.
    That landscape expeditiously
    Resembled harvest-home.

    “Most idle ass of all your class,�?
    The farmer said with scorn:
    “Just see my son, what you have done!
    The cows are in the corn!�?
    “Oh, drat,�? he said, “the brat!�? he said.
    The cowherd seemed to rouse.
    “My friend, it’s worse than that,�? he said.
    “The corn is in the cows.�?

    The moral lies before our eyes.
    When tending kine and corn,
    Don’t spend your noons in tooting tunes
    Upon a blatant horn:
    Or scaling, and assailing, and
    With energy immense,
    Your cows will take a railing, and
    The farmer take offense.

    - "The Harmonious Heedlessness of Little Boy Blue", by Guy Wetmore Carryl

    May 22, 2009

  • The noun this forms – inutility – is quite evocative, to me at least.

    September 26, 2008

  • This is the name of a song in the musical "In the Heights."

    September 26, 2008

  • I'd never thought about that until you told me, but yes. I'm sure knowing a smattering of Japanese is not helping in this regard.

    November 1, 2007

  • I know what it means, but this word remainds me of Inuits. And dogs. It's quite an elegant word, oddly, until you deconstruct it, and then it suddenly starts sounding less impressive....

    October 31, 2007