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[fyoot-l, fyoo-tahyl] /ˈfyut l, ˈfyu taɪl/
incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful:
Attempting to force-feed the sick horse was futile.
trifling; frivolous; unimportant.
Origin of futile
1545-55; < Latin fūtilis, futtilis easily broken, vain, worthless, equivalent to fūt- (akin to fundere to pour, melt) + -ilis -ile
Related forms
futilely, adverb
futileness, noun
nonfutile, adjective
unfutile, adjective
1. See useless. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for futilely
  • Money corrupts everything and attempts to change this fall futilely to the ground.
  • Lifeboats were still hanging lopsidedly and futilely from the davits.
  • They waited futilely on the beach, tinkering and still hopeful.
  • They desperately sought medical advice and futilely tried out every known treatment available.
  • Much of the rest of the film follows her around as she futilely tries to earn enough money to buy one.
  • The norm in hospitals is that the lives of imminently dying patients are not futilely prolonged.
  • She'd searched futilely for her apron pockets, but she wasn't in an apron.
  • futilely but dangerously, it tries to fence the electronic frontier.
  • They expected us to either go away or continue to futilely introduce bills.
  • He futilely complained to defendant officials about the conduct and was terminated.
British Dictionary definitions for futilely


having no effective result; unsuccessful
pointless; unimportant; trifling
inane or foolish: don't be so futile!
Derived Forms
futilely, adverb
futileness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin futtilis pouring out easily, worthless, from fundere to pour out
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for futilely



1550s, from Middle French futile, from Latin futilis "vain, worthless, futile," literally "pouring out easily" (of a vessel), hence "easily emptied, leaky, unreliable," from base of fundere "pour, melt," from PIE root *gheu- "to pour" (see found (v.2)). Related: Futilely.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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