• The Vain Jackdaw
    The Vain Jackdaw
  • WordNet 3.6
    • adj vain unproductive of success "a fruitless search","futile years after her artistic peak","a sleeveless errand","a vain attempt"
    • adj vain 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"
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Additional illustrations & photos:

Grethari tries in vain to free himself Grethari tries in vain to free himself

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Vain Destitute of force or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt. "Bring no more vain oblations.""Vain is the force of man
      To crush the pillars which the pile sustain."
    • Vain Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying. "Thy vain excuse.""Every man walketh in a vain show.""Let no man deceive you with vain words.""Vain pomp, and glory of this world, I hate ye!""Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy."
    • Vain 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?""The minstrels played on every side, Vain of their art."
    • Vain Showy; ostentatious. "Load some vain church with old theatric state."
    • n Vain Vanity; emptiness; -- now used only in the phrase in vain.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • vain Having no real value or importance; worthless; unsubstantial; empty; trivial; idle.
    • vain Producing no good result; destitute of force or efficacy; fruitless; ineffectual; useless; futile; unavailing.
    • vain Light-minded; foolish; silly.
    • vain 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.
    • vain Showy; ostentatious; pretentious.
    • vain Bootless, abortive.
    • vain See egotism.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • adj Vain vān unsatisfying: fruitless: unreal: silly: conceited: showy:
    • adj Vain vān (B.) vacant, worthless
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  • Friedrich Nietzsche
    “Against boredom the gods themselves fight in vain.”
  • William Of Occam
    William Of Occam
    “It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.”
  • Oscar Wilde
    “Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.”
  • George Eliot
    “In the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its applause.”
  • Thomas Carlyle
    “No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”
  • Italian Proverb
    Italian Proverb
    “He gains a great deal who loses a vain hope.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
F. vain, L. vanus, empty, void, vain. Cf. Vanish Vanity Vaunt to boast
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Fr.,—L. vanus, empty.


In literature:

In vain we shouted; our voices grew weary, and we gave it up in despair.
"A Voyage round the World" by W.H.G. Kingston
In vain has Armstrong striven against this adverse fate; in vain made endeavours to avert it.
"The Death Shot" by Mayne Reid
In vain she struggled against it.
"Janet's Love and Service" by Margaret M Robertson
In vain she walked round and round, she could find no means of making herself heard.
"The Heir of Kilfinnan" by W.H.G. Kingston
Has been one long entreaty, and a vain one.
"The Works of Lord Byron" by Lord Byron
In vain he struggled, in vain he called.
"The Story of the Greeks" by H. A. Guerber
I waited, but waited in vain, to see whether he would change his mind.
"In the Wilds of Africa" by W.H.G. Kingston
He gave away great sums privately, and no tale of real distress ever reached his ears in vain.
"Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay
In vain Carlos, Lejoillie, and I shouted to them to stop.
"In the Wilds of Florida" by W.H.G. Kingston
I struggle vainly in my captivity; no way of freedom is open to me!
"Fairy Fingers" by Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie

In poetry:

Sleep, darksome, deep,
Doth on me fall:
Vain hopes all, sleep,
Sleep, yearnings all!
"Sleep, Darksome, Deep" by Paul Verlaine
Ah, vain is thine endeavor;
It naught availeth--nay;
For lonely as thou camest,
So shalt thou pass away.
"In The Wilderness" by Morris Rosenfeld
But vainly — all is calm and still;
Are his bright day dreams o'er?
Has he thus hoped and longed in vain,
And must they meet no more?
"Alexander And Zenobia" by Anne Bronte
False hope! vain prayer! it might not be
That thou shouldst visit earth again.
I called on Heaven —­ I called on thee,
And watched, and waited —­ all in vain.
"Severed and gone" by Anne Bronte
"But o'er the lasting gloom of love's despair,
Can hope's bright ray its cheering visions shed?
Can pity sooth the woes that breast must bear
Which vainly loves, and vainly mourns the dead?
"Euphelia" by Helen Maria Williams
Spake the Lord Christ—"I will arise."
It seemed a saying void and vain—
How shall a dead man rise again!—
Vain as our tears, vain as our cries.
Not one of all the little band
That loved Him this might understand.
"An Easter Hymn" by Richard Le Gallienne

In news:

Young women become more vain during recessions, U of M prof finds.
Consider this a cry in vain, much like the world peace thing.
Don't let her baldness and weirdness be in vain.
Tolman tacklers try in vain to slow Portsmouth's Matt Greenman.
Stacy Lee is an excellent example of a vain DJ.
Photography by John Mata Jr. Not all projects come together in vain.
You're So Vain' Not About David Geffen After All.
In frustration, two of the robbers pounded on the cash register in a vain attempt to open it.
You can try to fight back—giving new meaning to the words in vain.
Mr F, the vain, batshit medieval version.
Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain.
Time Out New York' Tries, in Vain, to Show a Nicer Side of Lisa Fernandes.
But it's probably time to let that vain hope go.
Three day care workers are accused of encouraging a fight between toddlers in their care – and police say a videotape shows the 3-year-olds punching each other, with one boy screaming, crying and trying in vain to escape.
Dress up and get Vain .

In science:

This lack of notification means modules can become “stuck” and attempt the same movement in vain for several time cycles.
Multiagent Control of Self-reconfigurable Robots
Thus, since forty years the GW hunters persist in their vain efforts aimed at the experimental detection of GW’s.
An immediate proof of the non-existence of GW's
Lp (A, ℓn We have tried in vain to prove Theorem D directly using uniquely tools from free probability.
Theory of Amalgamated Lp Spaces in Noncommutative Probability
In this framework, it becomes clear that it is vain to look for a hidden extreme process when one of the extreme value distributions is observed in a problem of global fluctuations.
Generalised extreme value statistics and sum of correlated variables
However, we have searched the literature in vain for similar results on growth functions of semigroups rather than groups.
L^1 Ergodic Theorems for Random Group Averages