vanity

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

A vanity (dressing table; sense 3).
A bathroom vanity (sense 4).

From va(i)n +‎ -ity, from Middle English vanite, from Old French vanité, from Latin vānitas, from vānus, whence English vain. Doublet of vanitas.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

vanity (countable and uncountable, plural vanities)

  1. That which is vain, futile, or worthless; that which is of no value, use or profit.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Ecclesiastes 2:15–16:
      Then I said in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me and why then was I more wise? Then I said in my heart that this is also vanity. / For there is no more remembrance of the wise than the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.
  2. Excessive pride in or admiration of one's own abilities, appearance or achievements.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], OCLC 21345056, page 224:
      To make a man in love with you gives an instant hold on his vanity; and with that, you can do any thing. Vanity is the real lever with which Archimedes said he could move the earth; so, try what you can effect with Sir Robert.
  3. A dressing table used to apply makeup, preen, and coif hair. The table is normally quite low and similar to a desk, with drawers and one or more mirrors on top. Either a chair or bench is used to sit upon.
  4. A washbasin installed into a permanently fixed storage unit, used as an item of bathroom furniture.
  5. Emptiness. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  6. (obsolete) Any idea, theory or statement that is without foundation.
    It is a vanity to say that if two stones are dropped from a tower, the heavier will experience the greater acceleration.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] VVilliam Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], OCLC 1044372886:
      To help the matter, the alchemists call in likewise many vanities out of astrology.

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