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Line breaks: vain
Pronunciation: /veɪn

Definition of vain in English:


1Having or showing an excessively high opinion of one’s appearance, abilities, or worth: their flattery made him vain a vain woman with a streak of snobbery
More example sentences
  • A man should be clean and confident in his appearance, but not vain or pretentious.
  • This archbishop has, in my opinion, been a vain and self-aggrandising man throughout.
  • She was the most arrogant, vain, self centred person I'd ever met.
conceited, narcissistic, self-loving, in love with oneself, self-admiring, self-regarding, wrapped up in oneself, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-centred, egotistic, egotistical, egoistic, egocentric, egomaniac;
literary vainglorious
rare peacockish
(be vain)have an excessively high opinion of oneself, think too highly of oneself, think a lot of oneself
informal think one is the cat's whiskers/pyjamas, think one is God's gift (to women)
2 [attributive] Producing no result; useless: a vain attempt to tidy up the room the vain hope of finding work
More example sentences
  • He was yelling and crying, reaching out desperately and uselessly past the restraining arms in a vain attempt to bring his friend back.
  • There is irritating piped music, a vain attempt to drown out the background wind-pocket moan of the ventilation/heating system and generate some atmosphere perhaps.
  • We took to channel hopping in the vain hope that something remotely interesting would catch our attention.
2.1Having no likelihood of fulfilment; empty: a vain boast
More example sentences
  • It's not a vain boast on the evidence of this season.
  • This turn of events, this sad return after so many vain boasts, would have made a shamed recluse out of a normal human being.
  • By and large I'm all for the right to speak your mind and give your opinion as long as it's of worth and not just some vain criticism thrown out for the sake of it.


Middle English (in the sense 'devoid of real worth'): via Old French from Latin vanus 'empty, without substance'.


in vain

Without success or a result: they waited in vain for a response
More example sentences
  • The crowds waited in vain for an encore, not quite believing it was time to go home already.
  • Imagine you tell her to come straight home, then you wait in vain for the sound of her key in the door.
  • She was one of hundreds of customers who were trying in vain to benefit from a giveaway deal.
unsuccessfully, vainly, without success, to no avail, to no purpose, ineffectually, with no result, fruitlessly, profitlessly, unproductively

take someone's name in vain

Use someone’s name in a way that shows a lack of respect.
Example sentences
  • Meanwhile a so-called rival diarist has been taking her name in vain, referring sneeringly to her brief career as an author of bodice rippers.
  • For every Broons there's been a Magoons (Meet the Magoons was the short-lived Caledonian curry-house sitcom that was actually pretty good, but I'm taking its name in vain because I need a rhyme).
  • ‘Someone taking my name in vain?‘said Caroline.



Example sentences
  • A heartbroken family today paid tribute to the bravery of a 35-year-old man as he vainly fought brain cancer.
  • We had, vainly and absurdly, tried to unroll the garden hose.
  • She is being chased by some unseen creature and the camera sees the fear in her eyes as she vainly scrambles over rocks.


Pronunciation: /ˈveɪnnɪs/
Example sentences
  • He thinks he was born for women, though I must say his vainness is highly amusing.
  • The fact that people have come to realize the vainness of hoping for assistance from ‘benevolent’ rulers gives some grounds for optimism.
  • I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.

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Pronunciation: ôrˈTHōəpē
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