The Meaning of Futile: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of futile? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word futile, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word futile mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word futile is an adjective that means unsuccessful, unimportant, or pointless. Futile is three syllables – fu-ti-le, and the pronunciation of futile is ˈfjuːtaɪl. Many things can be futile, including a vain attempt, futile rage, something not worth attempting, something time-consuming, an otiose undertaking, a fruitless search, a sleeveless errand, and more. 

Many different languages also use words that mean futile. You may notice that some of these look and sound similar to the word futile. These cognates are formed when words have a similar origin or root. This list of translations of futile is provided by Word Sense but you could also find translations in a digital edition of a dictionary.

  •  Khmer: អសារ‎ (a’saa)
  •  Bokmål: nytteløs‎, nyttelaus‎
  •  Polish: daremny‎ (masc.)
  •  Occitan: futil‎
  •  Hindi: फ़ज़ूल‎, अकारथ‎
  •  French: futile‎
  •  Nynorsk: nyttelaus‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: dìomhain‎, faoin‎
  •  Persian: عبث‎, بى فايده‎, پوچ‎ (puč)
  •  Mandarin: 無用‎, 无用‎ (wúyòng), 枉然‎ (wǎngrán), 無益‎, 无益‎ (wúyì)
  •  Swedish: meningslös‎, lönlös‎, fåfäng‎
  •  Georgian: ფუჭი‎, ამაო‎
  •  Navajo: chʼééh‎
  •  German: sinnlos‎, vergeblich‎
  •  Danish: nytteløs‎
  •  Czech: jalový‎
  •  Japanese: 無用‎ (むよう, muyō), 無駄‎ (むだ, muda), 無益‎ (むえき, mueki)
  •  Arabic: عَقِيم‎
  •  Ido: vana‎
  •  Greek: μάταιος‎
  •  Portuguese: fútil‎
  •  Spanish: inútil‎, fútil‎
  •  Latin: futilis‎ (masc.), futilis‎ (fem.), futile‎ (neut.)
  •  Galician: fútil‎
  •  Maori: mūhore‎
  •  Burmese: အချည်းနှီးဖြစ်သော‎ (a.hkyany:hni:hprac-sau:), အလဟဿဖြစ်သော‎ (
  •  Faroese: nyttuleysur‎
  •  Dutch: nutteloos‎
  •  Cherokee: ᎤᏚᎩᏄᏛᎾ‎ (uduginudvna)
  •  Catalan: fútil‎
  •  Finnish: turha‎, tulokseton‎, toivoton‎; katteeton‎ (of a promise)
  •  Slovak: márny‎, zbytočný‎, nepatrný‎
  •  Russian: бесполе́зный‎, тще́тный‎, беспло́дный‎, напра́сный‎
  •  Italian: futile‎
  •  Bulgarian: безполезен‎, напразен‎, безуспешен‎

What is the origin of the word futile?

According to Etymonline, the word futile (adj.) has been used since c16 and comes from the French futile, Latin futili/Latin fūtilis, and Latin futtilis/fūt ilis. This comes from the latin fundere, and the Proto-Indo-European roots gheu meaning pour. One can add the suffixes ly and ity to form the related words futile (adv.) and futility (n.)

What are synonyms and antonyms of futile?

There is a vast collection of many different words that can be used in place of the word futile, which are known as synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word futile is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  useless
  •  pointless
  •  vain
  •  unavailing
  •  fruitless
  •  worthless
  •  ineffective
  •  bootless
  •  ineffectual
  •  abortive
  •  unsuccessful
  •  unproductive
  •  barren
  •  unprofitable
  •  meaningless
  •  idle
  •  otiose
  •  hopeless
  •  nugatory
  •  sterile
  •  empty
  •  profitless
  •  valueless
  •  hollow
  •  inefficacious
  •  failed
  •  impotent
  •  sleeveless
  •  no use
  •  in vain
  •  purposeless
  •  senseless
  •  trivial
  •  no effect
  •  impracticable
  •  no avail
  •  unrewarding
  •  inefficient
  •  frivolous
  •  half ass
  •  thwarted
  •  unworkable
  •  foiled
  •  inutile
  •  no purpose
  •  unnecessary
  •  unusable
  •  aimless
  •  forlorn
  •  goner
  •  insignificant
  •  trifling
  •  unfruitful
  •  unimportant
  •  vainly
  •  absurd
  •  feckless
  •  stupid
  •  for naught
  •  inoperative
  •  back to the wall
  •  counterproductive
  •  for nothing
  •  goofy
  •  impossible
  •  impractical
  •  loafing
  •  needless
  •  of no use
  •  dead duck
  •  helpless
  •  inane
  •  no go
  •  no good
  •  no-win
  •  nonproductive
  •  of no avail
  •  silly
  •  unattainable
  •  unhelpful
  •  unserviceable
  •  bootlessly
  •  desperate
  •  foolish
  •  frustrated
  •  idiotic
  •  inadequate
  •  inconsequential
  •  insubstantial
  •  no-chance
  •  no-go
  •  running out of time
  •  unlucrative
  •  unreturned
  •  vacuous
  •  waste
  •  wasted
  •  beyond hope
  •  good for nothing
  •  good-for-nothing

There are also numerous different words that are the opposite of the word futile, which are called antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word futile is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  useful
  •  beneficial
  •  helpfulness
  •  efficient
  •  ace
  •  highly successful
  •  especially productive
  •  achievable
  •  potent
  •  extremely productive
  •  brilliant
  •  smart
  •  especially efficient
  •  attainable
  •  wow
  •  evocative
  •  financially manageable
  •  thankful
  •  effectual
  •  doable
  •  able
  •  profitable
  •  exceptionally efficient
  •  effective
  •  distinctly effective
  •  viable
  •  extremely successful
  •  exercitation
  •  supportive
  •  efficacious
  •  worth it
  •  exceptionally effective
  •  extremely effective
  •  productive
  •  especially successful
  •  extremely efficient
  •  grist for the mill
  •  crazy like a fox
  •  substantial
  •  fruitful
  •  especially effective
  •  brainy
  •  expedient
  •  exceptionally successful
  •  cross-functional
  •  akamai
  •  functional
  •  as sharp as a needle
  •  big
  •  exceptionally productive

How can the word futile be used in a sentence?

There are many ways that the word futile can be used in a sentence in the English language. Using new words in a sentence is a great way to incorporate new lingo into your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards and quizzes that test your knowledge of the definitions of different English words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several different examples of ways in which the word futile can be used in the English language to help get your started with using this word. 

The lawmakers and local leaders decided on Sunday that trying to stop Wednesday’s riots with rigid new security protocols was futile. 

The Washington Post decided that trying to correct their own set of the papers was futile. 

It is futile for them to try and become federal processors if they do not have a stuff backbone.

It was futile to perform an unavailing attempt to re-cage the large numbers of animals loose on the Nautilus. 

She spent many futile years in therapy at Princeton University, and while she got good advice, getting off of Facebook and Twitter was the biggest help. 

Overall, the word futile means pointless or unimportant, such as futile resistance or a futile attempt. This word is French and Latin in origin.


  1. futile: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Futile synonyms – 908 Words and Phrases for Futile | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Futile antonyms – 370 Opposites of Futile | Power Thesaurus 
  4. Futile definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  5. futile | Origin and meaning of futile | Online Etymology Dictionary