in vain

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(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium. Particularly: “Anglo-Norman en vain?”)


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in vain (comparative more in vain, superlative most in vain)

  1. (idiomatic) Without success or a result; ending in failure.
    • 1863 November 19, Abraham Lincoln, Dedicatory Remarks (Gettysburg Address)‎[1], near Soldiers' National Cemetery, LCCN n94107481, Bliss copy, page 2:
      [] that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain []
    • 19th c., Friedrich Nietzsche
      On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain.
    • 1956 [1880], Johanna Spyri, Heidi, translation of original by Eileen Hall, page 46:
      For some time Grannie tried in vain to comfort her.
    • 1960 March, J. P. Wilson & E. N. C. Haywood, “The route through the Peak: Derby to Manchester. Part One”, in Trains Illustrated, page 149:
      All these great plans were in vain, however, for in the cold dawn following the "Mania" years of 1845–46 the M.B.M. & M.J.R. project was truncated to an 11+12-mile line from Ambergate to Rowsley.
  2. (idiomatic) In a disrespectful manner, especially when concerning religion.



in vain (comparative more in vain, superlative most in vain)

  1. (idiomatic) Unsuccessful, failed.
    • 2012, N.H. Pijls, Maximal Myocardial Perfusion as a Measure of the Functional Significance of Coronary Artery Disease[2]:
      The problems concerning contrast induced hyperemia and the in vain efforts to search for a contrast agent not influencing flow []