from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Not yielding the desired outcome; fruitless.
  • adjective Lacking substance or worth.
  • adjective Having or showing excessive pride in one's appearance or accomplishments; conceited.
  • adjective Archaic Foolish.
  • idiom (in vain) To no avail; without success.
  • idiom (in vain) In an irreverent or disrespectful manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying.
  • adjective Destitute of force or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual.
  • adjective Proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments; having a high opinion of one's own accomplishments with slight reason; conceited; puffed up; inflated.
  • adjective Showy; ostentatious.
  • noun Vanity; emptiness; -- now used only in the phrase in vain.
  • noun [Obs.] See In vain.
  • noun to no purpose; without effect; ineffectually.
  • noun to use the name of God with levity or profaneness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vānus, empty; see euə- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French vain, from Latin vānus ("empty")


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word vain.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • A sociable person does not posses a vain personality.

    February 15, 2013