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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
a vain attempt (=one that does not succeed)
▪ They worked through the night in a vain attempt to finish on schedule.
a vain/forlorn hope (=hope for something that is impossible)
▪ He traveled south in the vain hope of finding work.
an empty/idle/vain boast (=a false statement that something is good or possible)
▪ ‘Making knowledge work’ is the university’s phrase, and it is no idle boast not a boast, but true.
search in vain
▪ He searched in vain for a means of escape.
unsuccessfully/in vain
▪ He has tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking.
wait in vain (=wait for something that never happens)
▪ They waited in vain for their son to come home.
▪ Fifi was back at the bars and stretching out her hand in a vain attempt to reach the steel tray.
▪ Atmel is spending $ 400 million this year in a vain attempt to meet demand.
▪ Curling his toes in a vain attempt to frustrate the inhospitable lino, Mungo watched, fascinated.
▪ Something walking across her grave ... or the forces in heaven laughing at her vain attempts to re-write her future?
▪ People close their windows at night in a vain attempt to shut out the sound of sirens and gunfire.
▪ Once, I dived full-length across the court in a vain attempt to retrieve the ball.
▪ In a vain attempt to maintain her independence, she spent Monday and Tuesday nights at home - alone.
▪ The protesters flung handfuls of earth into the trenches in a vain attempt to lift the siege of the West Bank town.
▪ Mr Lamont's squandering of £1 billion in his vain bid to prop up the pound has not helped.
▪ I had visited her often in the London hospital where vain efforts were made to stop the spread of cancer.
▪ This proved a vain hope, as the young student soon acquired a following of like-minded people.
▪ In the last months of 1978 several of his former servants were arrested in this vain hope.
▪ It was usually a vain hope.
▪ But I knew this was a vain hope because the house was always locked securely.
▪ Better than enduring his fumbling during the night in the vain hope of satisfaction when the need was strong in her.
▪ But since passion does not come in bottles it seems a vain hope.
▪ Guided by a mournful bleating, he came across several groups of sheep, huddled together in the vain hope of safety.
take sb's name in vain
▪ He stretched up his arms in a vain effort to reach the top of the embankment.
▪ I am vain enough to want to look good, but not to style my hair and paint my toenails.
▪ I remembered all my vain attempts to change his mind.
▪ She's a vain girl who is always thinking about her figure.
▪ Later, it tried in vain to conquer the whole of the subcontinent.
▪ Pollsters have searched in vain for pockets of disloyalty.
▪ So look at your friends, see what they are a little vain about and then multiply by a factor of ten.
▪ The vain girl did a little dance in them, but when she tried to stop, the shoes kept on dancing.
▪ They are so vain in bed, much more vain than women.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Vain \Vain\, a. [Compar. Vainer; superl. Vainest.] [F. vain, L. vanus empty, void, vain. Cf. Vanish, Vanity, Vaunt to boast.]

  1. Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying. ``Thy vain excuse.''

    Every man walketh in a vain show.
    --Ps. xxxix. 6.

    Let no man deceive you with vain words.
    --Eph. v. 6.

    Vain pomp, and glory of this world, I hate ye!

    Vain visdom all, and false philosophy.

  2. Destitute of forge or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt.

    Bring no more vain oblations.
    --Isa. i. 1

  3. Vain is the force of man To crush the pillars which the pile sustain.

    3. Proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments; having a high opinion of one's own accomplishments with slight reason; conceited; puffed up; inflated.

    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren?
    --James ii. 20 (Rev. Ver.).

    The minstrels played on every side, Vain of their art.

  4. Showy; ostentatious.

    Load some vain church with old theatric state.

    Syn: Empty; worthless; fruitless; ineffectual; idle; unreal; shadowy; showy; ostentatious; light; inconstant; deceitful; delusive; unimportant; trifling.


Vain \Vain\, n. Vanity; emptiness; -- now used only in the phrase in vain.

For vain. See In vain. [Obs.]

In vain, to no purpose; without effect; ineffectually. `` In vain doth valor bleed.''
--Milton. `` In vain they do worship me.''
--Matt. xv. 9.

To take the name of God in vain, to use the name of God with levity or profaneness.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

c.1300, "devoid of real value, idle, unprofitable," from Old French vain, vein "worthless, void, invalid, feeble; conceited" (12c.), from Latin vanus "empty, void," figuratively "idle, fruitless," from PIE *wa-no-, from root *eue- "to leave, abandon, give out" (cognates: Old English wanian "to lessen," wan "deficient;" Old Norse vanta "to lack;" Latin vacare "to be empty," vastus "empty, waste;" Avestan va- "lack," Persian vang "empty, poor;" Sanskrit una- "deficient," Armenian unain "empty").\n

\nMeaning "conceited, elated with a high opinion of oneself" first recorded 1690s in English; earlier "silly, idle, foolish" (late 14c.). Phrase in vain "to no effect" (c.1300, after Latin in vanum) preserves the original sense. Related: Vainly; vainness. Compare also vainglory.


a. 1 Overly proud of oneself, especially concerning appearance; having a high opinion of one's own accomplishments with slight reason. 2 Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying. 3 Effecting no purpose; pointless, futile.

  1. adj. characteristic of false pride; having an exaggerated sense of self-importance; "a conceited fool"; "an attitude of self-conceited arrogance"; "an egotistical disregard of others"; "so swollen by victory that he was unfit for normal duty"; "growing ever more swollen-headed and arbitrary"; "vain about her clothes" [syn: conceited, egotistic, egotistical, self-conceited, swollen, swollen-headed]

  2. unproductive of success; "a fruitless search"; "futile years after her artistic peak"; "a sleeveless errand"; "a vain attempt" [syn: bootless, fruitless, futile, sleeveless]


Vain may refer to:

  • Vain (horse) (1966-1991), a champion Australian Thoroughbred racehorse
  • Vain Stakes, an Australian Thoroughbred horse race
  • Vain (band), a glam metal band formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986
  • Bruno Vain, soccer sportscaster
  • Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN), a medical disorder
Vain (horse)

Vain (1966–1991) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse that dominated Australian sprint racing in the period 1968–70, when he won 12 of the 14 races he contested and ran second in the other two. He went on to become a leading sire in Australia.

The chestnut colt was sired by the leading sire Wilkes (FR), and his dam, Elated, was by the good sire Orgoglio (GB), who sired 21 stakes winners that had 37 stakes wins. Elated was a good racemare that won 10 races, including eight in Melbourne. Although she produced several foals, Vain was her only stakes winner.

Vain (band)

Vain is an American heavy metal band from San Francisco Bay Area, California, formed in 1986. As of 2011, the lineup consists of Davy Vain (lead vocals), Jamie Scott (guitar), Danny West (guitar), Ashley Mitchell (bass) and Louie Senor (drums).

After recording a demo, Davy Vain founded Vain in 1986, adding Scott, West, Mitchell and drummer Tom Rickard to the lineup. They signed with Island Records in 1988, before releasing their debut album the following year, titled No Respect, which peaked at number 154 on the Billboard 200.

Though they recorded a second album, Vain were released by Island in 1991, with West and Rickard departing the same year. Following the addition of both Shawn Rorie and former Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler, Vain renamed themselves Road Crew. However, they also disbanded in 1991. The band reformed in 1993 and went through a number of lineup changes for the release of their next two studio albums. By 2005, Scott and West had returned to the band, while Rickard would rejoin them in 2009 (before departing again the following year).

To date, Vain have released six studio albums; No Respect (1989); Move On It (1993); Fade (1995); On The Line (2005); All Those Strangers (2010), and Enough Rope (2011).

Usage examples of "vain".

He might also have said, that when the proposition was made to himself and Grace, both had shrunk from the alliance with disgust: and that both had united in humble though vain remonstrances to their mother, against the sacrifice, and in petitions to their sister, that she would not be accessary to her own misery.

I saw, sitting before a table, a woman already somewhat advanced in age, with two young girls and two boys, but I looked in vain for the actress, whom Don Sancio Pico at last presented to me in the shape of one of the two boys, who was remarkably handsome and might have been seventeen.

In one instance a young man had slept so close to his camp-fire that the hair from one side of his head was singed completely away, giving him an appearance so strange that he was promptly given a nickname of twenty or more consonant sounds, which, translated, meant: The Man Who is Half Old Because He Is Half Bald--an appellation acutely resented by the young person concerned, who was rather vain and something of a favourite among the girls.

People who are very vain are usually equally susceptible, and they who feel one thing acutely will so feel another.

It is impossible to justify the vain and credulous exaggerations of modern travellers, who have sometimes stretched the limits of Constantinople over the adjacent villages of the European, and even of the Asiatic coast.

He groaneth oft, and sighs amain, Poor soul is he In verity, And for his freedom sighs in vain.

The ideal demand for some sort of individual and social amelioration has always accompanied even their vainest flights of patriotic prophecy.

I then began to caress her, and to make assaults in the style of an amorous man, but it was all in vain, though I succeeded in stretching her on a large sofa.

The scar which my late amours had left was still bleeding, and I was glad to think that I should be able to restore the young Marseillaise to the paternal hearth without any painful partings or vain regrets.

Both Arak and Sufa slapped their hands over their mouths in a vain effort to contain their laughter.

A single petal picked up near the locked door to the garden of Arling Lodge seemed a small return for such perseverance, but it is to be presumed that the patient search had not been in vain, for it was immediately after the discovery that Carrados left the opening, and with the cool effrontery that marked his methods he opened the front gate of Dr.

I, attempting in vain to place what little I had seen of the dwelling in its proper place.

Another, and another wail, while the wretched man hurries off, stopping his ears in vain against those piercing cries, which follow him, like avenging angels, through the dreadful vaults.

Jones was picked up out of the watery vastness of the Pacific Ocean by his own power cruiser, the Bandersnatch, which had for three days been cross-quartering those waters in the vain, despairing hope of picking up some trace of him or his body.

She drew the hood up over her head with her tied hands, and searched the pockets for the bunchberry flower and sprig of bayberry in vain.