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From Middle English emty, amty, from Old English ǣmtiġ, ǣmettiġ (vacant, empty, free, idle, unmarried, literally without must or obligation, leisurely), from Proto-Germanic *uz- (out) + Proto-Germanic *mōtijô, *mōtô (must, obligation, need), *mōtiþô (ability, accommodation), from Proto-Indo-European *med- (measure; to acquire, possess, be in command). Related to Old English ġeǣmtiġian (to empty), Old English ǣmetta (leisure), Old English mōtan (must, might, have to). More at mote, meet.

The interconsonantal excrescent p is a euphonic insertion[1] dating from Middle English.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɛmpti/, /ˈɛmti/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: emp‧ty


empty (comparative emptier, superlative emptiest)

A man sitting in an empty guest room (1)
  1. Devoid of content; containing nothing or nobody; vacant.
    Synonyms: unoccupied, clear, (obsolete) leer, toom, clean
    Antonym: full
    an empty purse
    an empty jug
    an empty stomach
    • 1949 June 8, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 1, in Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel, London: Secker & Warburg, OCLC 690663892; republished [Australia]: Project Gutenberg of Australia, August 2001, part 2, page 103:
      [] something in the little man's appearance suggested that he would be sufficiently attentive to his own comfort to choose the emptiest table.
    • 2011 October 23, Phil McNulty, “Man Utd 1 - 6 Man City”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      United's stature is such that one result must not bring the immediate announcement of a shift in the balance of power in Manchester - but the swathes of empty seats around Old Trafford and the wave of attacks pouring towards David de Gea's goal in the second half emphasised that City quite simply have greater firepower and talent in their squad at present.
  2. (computing, programming, mathematics) Containing no elements (as of a string, array, or set), opposed to being null (having no valid value).
    Antonym: non-empty
  3. (obsolete) Free; clear; devoid; often with of.
  4. Having nothing to carry, emptyhanded; unburdened.
  5. Destitute of effect, sincerity, or sense; said of language.
    empty words, or threats
    empty offer
    empty promises
    • 1697, Colley Cibber, Woman's Wit, Act V, page 190, [2]
      [] words are but empty thanks; my future conduct best will speak my gratitude.
  6. Unable to satisfy; hollow; vain.
    empty pleasures
    • 1713, Alexander Pope, “Windsor-Forest. []”, in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope, volume I, London: [] W[illiam] Bowyer, for Bernard Lintot, [], published 1717, OCLC 43265629, lines 429-430:
      Ev'n I more sweetly pass my careless days, / Pleas'd in the silent shade with empty praise;
  7. Destitute of reality, or real existence; unsubstantial.
    empty dreams
  8. Destitute of, or lacking, sense, knowledge, or courtesy.
    empty brains
    an empty coxcomb
  9. (of some female animals, especially cows and sheep) Not pregnant; not producing offspring when expected to do so during the breeding season.
    Empty cow rates have increased in recent years.
  10. (obsolete, of a plant or tree) Producing nothing; unfruitful.
    an empty vine

Derived terms[edit]



empty (third-person singular simple present empties, present participle emptying, simple past and past participle emptied)

  1. (transitive, ergative) To make empty; to void; to remove the contents of.
    to empty a well or a cistern
    The cinema emptied quickly after the end of the film.
  2. (intransitive) Of a river, duct, etc: to drain or flow toward an ultimate destination.
    Salmon River empties on the W shore about 2 miles below Bear River.
    • 1899, Horace White, trans., Appian:
      Of these the Rhine empties into the Northern ocean and the Danube into the Euxine.


Derived terms[edit]



empty (plural empties)

  1. (usually plural) A container, especially a bottle, whose contents have been used up, leaving it empty.
    Put the empties out to be recycled.
    • 2019 October, Steve Stubbs, photo caption, “'60' on the stone”, in Modern Railways, page 20:
      A number of locomotives have been drafted into the area to cover the traction shortfall, including two Class 60s: here No 60039 accelerates away from Eastleigh on the Chandlers Ford branch with the lunchtime Fareham to Whatley quarry empties [empty wagons] on 20 August 2019.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “empty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

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