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vain / vān/ • adj. 1. having or showing an excessively high opinion of one's appearance, abilities, or worth: their flattery made him vain. 2. producing no result; useless: a vain attempt to tidy up the room the vain hope of finding work. ∎  having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment: a vain boast.PHRASES: in vain without success or a result: they waited in vain for a response.take someone's name in vain use someone's name in a way that shows a lack of respect.DERIVATIVES: vain·ly adv.ORIGIN: Middle English (in the sense ‘devoid of real worth’): via Old French from Latin vanus ‘empty, without substance.’