From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Latin fūtilitās (worthlessness, futility). By surface analysis, futile +‎ -ity.


  • (file)


futility (usually uncountable, plural futilities)

  1. (uncountable) The quality of being futile or useless.
    an exercise of futility
    His taking the bar exam for a third time was pure futility.
  2. (countable) Something, especially an act, that is futile.
    • 1803, Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson[1]:
      But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him, his sophisms, futilities, and incomprehensibilities, and what remains?
    • 1843 April, Thomas Carlyle, “chapter XIII, Democracy”, in Past and Present, American edition, Boston, Mass.: Charles C[offin] Little and James Brown, published 1843, →OCLC, book III (The Modern Worker):
      No man oppresses thee, can bid thee fetch or carry, come or go, without reason shewn. […] No man, wiser, unwiser, can make thee come or go: but thy own futilities, bewilderments, thy false appetites for Money, Windsor Georges and such like?
    • 1917, H[erbert] G[eorge] Wells, The Soul of a Bishop[2]:
      An excessive solicitude to shield those others from one's own trials and hardships, to preserve the exact quality of the revelation, for example, had been the fruitful cause of crippling errors, spiritual tyrannies, dogmatisms, dissensions, and futilities.
    • 1920 April, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC, book I (The Romantic Egotist), page 171:
      But men will chatter and you and I will still shout our futilities to each other across the stage until the last silly curtain falls plump! upon our bobbing heads.
    • 2009 September 5, Robert Clark, “Exhibition preview: Goya: Fantasies, Follies And Disasters, Manchester”, in Guardian[3]:
      There are moments of profound existential angst, howls of despair at the absurd futilities of war and a sneering disgust at the soul-destroying wastage of human potential.
  3. (uncountable) Unimportance.
    • 1879, Henry James, chapter XVII, in Confidence, London: Chatto & Windus:
      Her empty chatter, her futility, her childish coquetry and frivolity—such light wares could hardly be the whole substance of any woman’s being; []

Derived terms[edit]