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! (Shak) Vain visdom all, and false philosophy. (milton)
2. Destitute of forge or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt. Bring no more vain oblations. (isa. I. 13) Vain is the force of man To crush the pillars which the pile sustain. (Dryden)
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. (Dryden)
4. Showy; ostentatious. Load some vain church with old theatric state. (pope)
Synonym: empty, worthless, fruitless, ineffectual, idle, unreal, shadowy, showy, ostentatious, light, inconstant, deceitful, delusive, unimportant, trifling.
Origin: F. Vain, L. Vanus empty, void, vain. Cf. Vanish, Vanity, Vaunt to boast.