Definition of vanity in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈvanɪti/

noun (plural vanities)

1 [mass noun] Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements: it flattered his vanity to think I was in love with him [count noun]: the vanities and ambitions of politicians
More example sentences
  • He had no concern for his appearance; no personal vanity.
  • A heart full of false pride, vanity and arrogance has no room for wisdom, so it will remain lost in the darkness.
  • This is not, however, a simple tale of vanity or excessive consumption.
conceit, conceitedness, self-conceit, narcissism, self-love, self-admiration, self-regard, self-absorption, self-obsession, self-centredness, egotism, egoism, egocentrism, egomania;
pride, haughtiness, arrogance, boastfulness, swagger, imperiousness, cockiness, pretension, affectation, airs, show, ostentation
literary vainglory, braggadocio
1.1 [as modifier] Denoting a person or company publishing works at the author’s expense: a vanity press
More example sentences
  • He lands a job editing manuscripts at a vanity publisher.
  • I've just come across a vanity publishing firm called Blogbinders, which turns blog content into bound volumes.
  • Backroom describes itself as essentially a vanity press, only capable of publishing work with the benefit of private backing.
2 [mass noun] The quality of being worthless or futile: the vanity of human wishes
More example sentences
  • They might consider the bounty of the earth, in one mood, or the vanity of human wishes and desires in another.
  • He was reflecting, perhaps, on the vanity of human passions.
  • He composed another poem on the vanity of worldliness.
futility, uselessness, pointlessness, worthlessness, purposelessness, idleness, fruitlessness, profitlessness
3North American A dressing table.
Example sentences
  • Upon examining the rest of the drawers, she realized it was more of a vanity than a desk.
  • She pictured it the way she remembered it: light purple walls with a dark purple carpet, white wicker furniture and a small vanity in the corner.
  • The room was like some sort of ritzy hotel, complete with a dresser, a vanity, and a four-poster bed.


Middle English: from Old French vanite, from Latin vanitas, from vanus 'empty' (see vain).

  • In early use vanity meant ‘futility, worthlessness’, with the idea of being conceited recorded a century later. This is the quality condemned in ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity’ from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. The source of the word is Latin vanus ‘empty, without substance’, also the source of vain (Middle English) and vanish (Middle English). In The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, published in 1678, Vanity Fair is held in the town of Vanity, through which pilgrims pass on their way to the Eternal City. All kinds of ‘vanity’, things of no real value, were on sale at the fair. The 19th century took the name Vanity Fair to represent the world as a place of frivolity and idle amusement, most notably in Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair (1847–48). Vanity Fair has been the title of four magazines since the 1850s, in particular the current US one founded in 1914. From its earliest appearance in around 1300 vain has meant ‘lacking real worth, worthless’. To take someone's name in vain, ‘to use someone's name in a way that shows disrespect’, echoes the third of the biblical Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.’ Since the late 17th century vain has also described someone who has a high opinion of their own appearance.

Words that rhyme with vanity

Christianity, humanity, inanity, profanity, sanity, urbanity

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: van¦ity

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