August 27, 2016
vain (adjective)
\VAYN\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : having no success : useless2 : proud of one's looks or abilities
How do you use it?
"‘You shouldn't think so much about your looks, Anne. I'm afraid you are a very vain little girl.' ‘How can I be vain when I know I'm homely?' protested Anne." (Lucy Maud Montgomery, _Anne of Green Gables_)
Are you a word wiz?

At the root of "vain" and the corresponding noun "vanity" is the Latin word "vanus." What do you think "vanus" means?

Nearly four centuries ago, English author Francis Quarles wrote that the human heart "fill'd with empty vanity, breathes forth/Nothing, but such things as are nothing worth." Quarles had it right in putting "empty" and "vanity" together: "vanus," the Latin root of "vain" and "vanity," means "empty." "Vanus" was adopted into Anglo-French as "vain" and was used to mean "empty" and "futile." English speakers borrowed the term from Anglo-French in the fourteenth century and used it to mean "having no real value" or "worthless." It very quickly also came to be used to mean "silly," but eventually acquired the "conceited" meaning we are familiar with today.
Archive RSS Feed