adjective, vainer, vainest.
excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited: a vain dandy.
proceeding from or showing pride in or concern about one's appearance, qualities, etc.; resulting from or displaying vanity: He made some vain remarks about his accomplishments.
ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile: vain hopes; a vain effort; a vain war.
without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless: vain pageantry; vain display.
Archaic. senseless or foolish.
in vain,
without effect or avail; to no purpose: lives lost in vain; to apologize in vain.
in an improper or irreverent manner: to take God's name in vain.

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French < Latin vānus empty, vain

vainly, adverb
vainness, noun
unvain, adjective
unvainly, adverb
unvainness, noun

vain, vane, vein.

1. egotistical, self-complacent, vainglorious, proud, arrogant, overweening. 3. fruitless, unavailing. 4. unimportant, trivial, trifling, nugatory. See useless.

1. humble. 3. useful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To in vain
World English Dictionary
vain (veɪn)
1.  inordinately proud of one's appearance, possessions, or achievements
2.  given to ostentatious display, esp of one's beauty
3.  worthless
4.  senseless or futile
5.  in vain to no avail; fruitlessly
6.  take someone's name in vain
 a.  to use the name of someone, esp God, without due respect or reverence
 b.  jocular to mention someone's name
[C13: via Old French from Latin vānus]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "devoid of real value, idle, unprofitable," from O.Fr. vein "worthless," from L. vanus "idle, empty," from PIE *wa-no-, from base *eue- "to leave, abandon, give out" (cf. O.E. wanian "to lessen," wan "deficient;" O.N. vanta "to lack;" L. vacare "to be empty," vastus "empty, waste;" Avestan va-
"lack," Pers. vang "empty, poor;" Skt. una- "deficient"). Meaning "conceited" first recorded 1692, from earlier sense of "silly, idle, foolish" (1390). Phrase in vain "to no effect" (c.1300, after L. in vanum) preserves the original sense.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

in vain

To no avail, useless, as in All our work was in vain. [c. 1300] Also see take someone's name in vain.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Attempts to contact the powers in charge of the contest have been in vain.
Pray for unity and world peace, so that these precious losses will not have
  been in vain.
After decades spent searching in vain, many seismologists now doubt whether
  such a signal even exists.
It s my understanding that one will seek in vain for a beneficial mutation.
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