1: serving no useful purpose: completely ineffective
2: occupied with trifles: frivolous
Did You Know?
Futile broke into 16th-century English as a Latinate borrowing from Middle French. The Latin derivative, fūtilis, was used to describe things that are brittle or fragile and, by extension, things serving no purpose or being pointless. These meanings survive in the English futile, which denotes ineffectiveness or frivolousness. In 1827, English author Robert Southey found a use for the word by blending it into utilitarian to form futilitarian, a word that is used for anyone who believes that human striving is futile—that is, ineffective and/or frivolous.
“Austin Rivers … played a role in the fourth-quarter comeback attempt that proved futile.” — Reuters, 11 Sept. 2020
“… anyone who’s ever traded in the familiar role of wedding guest for the alien role of wedding focal point will know how futile an effort it is to remember events clearly. At this point, the night lives on for me through the colours in my brain and the considerably more reliable memories in the photographs.” — Daniel Riley, GQ, 22 July 2020