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From Middle English availen (to be of use), from Old French a (to) + vail (from valoir (to be worth)).


  • IPA(key): /əˈveɪl/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl


avail (third-person singular simple present avails, present participle availing, simple past and past participle availed)

  1. (transitive, often reflexive) To turn to the advantage of.
    I availed myself of the opportunity.
  2. (transitive) To be of service to.
    Artifices will not avail the sinner in the day of judgment.
  3. (transitive) To promote; to assist.
    1713, Alexander Pope, The Wife of Bath Her Prologue, translation of original by Geoffrey Chaucer:
    All of this avail’d not, for whoe’er he be
    That tells my faults, I hate him mortally;
  4. (intransitive) To be of use or advantage; to answer or serve the purpose; to have strength, force, or efficacy sufficient to accomplish the object.
    The plea in court must avail.
    This scheme will not avail.
    Medicines will not avail to halt the disease.
  5. (India, Africa, elsewhere proscribed) To provide; to make available; to use or take advantage of (an opportunity or available resource).
    You can avail discounts on food.
    • 2004, November 16, “Nik Ogbulie”, in Decongesting the Banking Floors[1]:
      With this initiative, Valucard becomes an open system that is not limited to point of sale (POS) transactions, but now avails cash to its holders in various locations nationwide.


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avail (plural avails)

  1. Effect in achieving a goal or aim; purpose, use (now usually in negative constructions). [from 15th c.]
    I tried fixing it, to no avail
    Labor, without economy, is of little avail.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175, page 071:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. Indeed, a nail filed sharp is not of much avail as an arrowhead; you must have it barbed, and that was a little beyond our skill.
    • 2014, Paul Doyle, "Southampton hammer eight past hapless Sunderland in barmy encounter", The Guardian, 18 October:
      At half-time, Poyet replaced Wes Brown with Liam Bridcutt in the heart of defence and sent out the rest of the players to atone for their first-half mistakes. To no avail.
  2. (now only US) Proceeds; profits from business transactions. [from 15th c.]
  3. (television, advertising) An advertising slot or package.
  4. (US, politics, journalism) A press avail.
    While holding an avail yesterday, the candidate lashed out at critics.
  5. (Britain, acting) Non-binding notice of availability for work.
  6. (oil industry) A readily available stock of oil.
  7. (obsolete) Benefit; value, profit; advantage toward success. [15th–19th c.]
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “ij”, in Le Morte Darthur, book II:
      I shal take the aduenture sayd Balen that god wille ordeyne me / but the swerd ye shalle not haue at this tyme by the feythe of my body / ye shalle repente hit within short tyme sayd the damoysel/ For I wold haue the swerd more for your auaylle than for myne / for I am passyng heuy for your sake
      (please add an English translation of this quote)
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 1, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book III, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], OCLC 946730821:
      hardy Citizens [] sticke not to sacrifice their honours and consciences, as those of old, their lives, for their Countries availe and safety.
    • 1895, Andrew Lang, A Monk of Fife:
      So this friar, unworthy as he was of his holy calling, had me at an avail on every side, nor do I yet see what I could do but obey him, as I did.
  8. (obsolete, poetic) Effort; striving.
    • 1613, Thomas Campion, “Songs of Mourning”, in Poetical Works (in English) of Thomas Campion, published 1907, page 125:
      And ev'n now, though he breathless lies, his sails / Are struggling with the winds, for our avails / T'explore a passage hid from human tract, / Will fame him in the enterprise or fact.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (success or benefit): Very often encountered in negative phrases, such as of or to no or little avail.

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