As the Los Angeles RP Church begins a new series on The Book of Ecclesiastes it would be most profitable to spend some time in meditation on the word vanity. Below are six aspects of the definition of vanity along with their etymological entries from the OED. Meditating on these various aspects of the word will help you to better understand the preacher as he cries out time and time again, "Vanity of vanities". May the Lord enrich your meditations and aid you in living a life of fruitfulness in Him.
1. a. That which is vain, futile, or worthless; that which is of no value or profit.
c1230 Hali Meid. 27 Hare confort & hare delit, hwerin is hit al meast, bute i flesches fule oer in weorldes uanite..? 13.. E.E. Allit. P. C. 331 ose vnwyse ledes at affyen hym in vanyte & in vayne ynges. c1340 HAMPOLE Pr. Consc. 1619 us es e world, and e lyfe are-in, Ful of vanyte and of syn. 1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) III. 431 onkinge of enemyes is but vanite. c1450 LOVELICH Grail xliii. 316 Whanne alle this haddist ou seyn,..vpe thou ryse, and bethowhtest the Whethir it were soth oer vanite. c1480 HENRYSON Abbey Walk 51 (Bann.), Thy power and thy warldis pelf Is nocht bot verry vanitie. 1500-20 DUNBAR Poems xlvi. 98 This frustir luve all is bot vanite. 1611 BIBLE Ps. xxxix. 5 Euery man at his best state is altogether vanitie. 1691 RAY Creation I. (1704) 76 We see nothing in the Heavens which argues Chance, Vanity or Error. 1834 MATHEW Serm. ii. 44 Yet you often..are disposed to own that all in this world is vanity.
b. Vain and unprofitable conduct or employment of time.
1303 R. BRUNNE Handl. Synne 3346 Forsoe hyt seme weyl to be Al here lyfe yn vanyte. c1340 HAMPOLE Pr. Consc. 7228 ai..swa mysturned here air lyfyng In-tylle vanyte and flesschly lykyng. c1374 CHAUCER Troylus IV. 729 But efter al this nyce vanite, They took hire leve, and hom they wente alle. c1430 LYDG. Min. Poems (Percy Soc.) 219 Lat reson brydle thy sensualite,..Ageyn al worldly disordinat vanyte. 1514 BARCLAY Cyt. & Uplondyshman (Percy Soc.) 5 Men labour sorer in fruyteles vanyte, Than in fayre warkes of grete utylyte. 1567 Gude & Godlie B. (S.T.S.) 73, I pray the, Lord,..All vanitie and lieand word, Full far away thow put fra me. 1607 MELTON Sixe-folde Politician (Arb.) 114 As the enterludes may be tearmed the Schoole-houses of vanitie and wantonnes. 1612 Two Noble K. II. ii. 109 All those pleasures That wooe the wils of men to vanity. 1751 Transl. & Paraph. Sc. Ch. xxvii. 102 In Vanity ye waste your Days.
c. in vanity, in vain. Obs.1
1509 HAWES Conv. Swearers 23 Ye dare not take their names in vanyte.
2. a. The quality of being vain or worthless; the futility or worthlessness of something.
c1325 Prose Psalter li. 7 He was michel wor in his vanite. a1340 HAMPOLE Psalter xi. 1 A haly man at sees e vanyte of e warld mutiplid. 1382 WYCLIF Eph. iv. 17 That e walke not now, as and hethen men walken, in the vanyte of her witt. c1400 Destr. Troy 7121 Thus curstly at knight~hode..Voidet ere victory for vanite of speche. 1451 J. CAPGRAVE Life St. Aug. 9 In all is vanyte of his lif he happed to fynde a book at Tullius Cicero mad. 1535 COVERDALE Ecclus. xvii. 31 He hath pleasure in the vanyte of wickednes. 1662 J. DAVIES tr. Olearius' Voy. Ambass. 31 A fabulous story, whereof the vanity is so much the more visible. 1674 Essex Papers (Camden) I. 200 This [rumour] alarmed me so much that I had little rest till Trear. spoke with King, who assured him of the vanity of it. 1711 ADDISON Spect. No. 159 2, I fell into a profound Contemplation on the Vanity of human Life. 1741 C. MIDDLETON Cicero II. viii. 216 The vanity of expecting any lasting glory. 1823 SCOTT Quentin D. xxxiv, The Bohemian had gone where the vanity of his dreadful creed was to be put to the final issue. 1834 Tait's Mag. I. 699/1 The noble Lord might have anticipated the vanity of his exertions. 1864 PUSEY Lect. Daniel (1876) 274 The vanity of the resistance of the kings of Judah.
b. The quality of being foolish or of holding erroneous opinions. Obs.
c1386 CHAUCER Miller's T. 649 Of his vanytee He hadde yboght hym knedying tubbes thre. Clerk's T. 194 Wol nat oure lord yet leue his vanytee? Wol he nat wedde? 1578 TIMME Calvin on Gen. 26 Whereby their vanitie is overthrowen which think that the world was a matter alwayes without forme. 1596 DALRYMPLE tr. Leslie's Hist. Scot. II. 46/10 That..[they] mycht now se thair awne daftnes, and lach or greit at thair awne vanitie. 1660 in Extr. St. P. rel. Friends Ser. II. (1911) 123 Your petitioner is in great dread and horrour of an oath (though hee detests the vanity of Quakers and such like giddy people).
3. a. The quality of being personally vain; high opinion of oneself; self-conceit and desire for admiration.
a1340 HAMPOLE Psalter xv. 4 Synn and vnclennes at ai ere in at folous aire flesch and e vanyte of aire blode. 1390 GOWER Conf. III. 166 That whil he stod in that noblesse, He scholde his vanite represse With suche wordes as he herde. a1400-50 Alexander 1730 Be vanyte & vayne glori at in i wayns kindlis. Ibid. 1784 All i vanyte to voide & i vayne pride. c1430 LYDG. Minor Poems (Percy Soc.) 65 Yowre blynde fantesies now in hertis weyve Of childisshe vanyte, and lete hem over slyde. 1596 SPENSER St. Ireland Wks. (Globe) 627/1 They..through their owne vanitye..doe therupon build..historyes of theyr owne antiquitye. 1613 SHAKES. Hen. VIII, I. i. 85 What did this vanity But minister communication of A most poore issue? 1649 MILTON Eikon. B, The intention of this discourse was not fond ambition or the vanity to get a Name. 1705 STANHOPE Paraphr. I. 310 The vanity of wicked Men is scarcely more conspicuous than in the fond Imaginations they flatter themselves with. 1783 W. THOMSON Watson's Philip III (1839) 77 She cannot be vindicated from the imputation of female vanity, and the love of admiration on account of her exterior accomplishments. 1829 LYTTON Devereux I. i, His vanity was so mingled with good nature that it became graceful. 1881 M. E. HERBERT Edith 7 To the young wife's vanity and to Mr. Gordon's pride in his choice.
b. With a and pl.: An instance of this; an occasion for being vain.
1712-4 POPE Rape Lock I. 52 Think not, when Woman's transient breath is fled, That all her vanities at once are dead. 1761 HUME Hist. Eng. II. xxxi. 203 The nobility and gentry..who placed a vanity in these institutions. 1770 FOOTE Lame Lover 1 Wks. 1799 II. 57 To derive a vanity from a misfortune, will not I'm afraid be admitted as a vast instance of wisdom.
c. A thing of which one is vain; also slang, one's favourite liquor.
1854 PATMORE Angel in Ho. I. II. ix, She was my vanity, and oh All other vanities how vain! 1891 C. JAMES Rom. Rigmarole 114 It is advisable to wash it down with a long drink of the reader's particular vanity.
4. a. A vain, idle, or worthless thing; a thing or action of no value.
a1300 Cursor M. 53 at foly luue, at uanite, am likes now nan oer gle. c1340 HAMPOLE Prose Tr. 5, I satt by mine ane fleeande e vanytes of e worlde. c1450 Mankind 896 (Brandl), Thynke & remembyr, e world ys but a wanite. 1470-85 MALORY Arthur XXI. ix. 855, I had forsaken the vanytees of the world. 1535 COVERDALE 2 Kings xvii. 15 They despysed his ordinaunces..and walked in their awne vanities. 1545 BRINKLOW Compl. (1874) 83 Ye shuld turne from these vanitees vnto the liuinge God. 1633 in Verney Mem. (1907) I. 76 To run on in their sinful vanities. 1658 Ibid. II. 71 All I find as shee desires it for, is but to spend it uppon her vanities. 1673 CAVE Prim. Chr. II. ii. 33 The sights and sports of the Theatre and such like vanities. 1822 LAMB Elia I. Praise Chimney-Sweepers. A convenient spot..at the north side of the fair, not so far distant as to be impervious to the agreeable hubbub of that vanity. 1848 THACKERAY Van. Fair xli, As long as we have a man's body, we play our Vanities upon it, surrounding it with humbug and ceremonies.
b. An idle tale or matter; an idea or statement of a worthless or unfounded nature. Obs.
1340 Ayenb. 77 Holy wryt, et hise clepe leazinges..and metinges and uanites. c1340 HAMPOLE Pr. Consc. 184 Many has lykyng trofels to here, And vanites wille blethly lere. c1440 Jacob's Well 166 Whanne ou iangelyst in cherch, or thynkest vanytees. 1500-20 DUNBAR Poems ix. 108, I knaw me..culpable..In wordis vyle, in vaneteis expreming. 1560 J. DAUS tr. Sleidane's Comm. 205 The Frenche men were thought to be authors and forgers of this vanitie. 1582 N. LICHEFIELD tr. Castanheda's Conq. E. Ind. 37 They be great southsayers, they haue good dayes and bad dayes,..they doe easily beleeue whatsoeuer vanitie. 1652 HEYLYN Cosmogr. I. 211 Turpin hath..interlaced his Storie with a number of ridiculous vanities. 1660 F. BROOKE tr. Le Blanc's Trav. 391 His Poem the Auracana..begins with this vanity, truely poetical and Romantick Spaniard-like. 1894 ‘MARK TWAIN’ in Century Mag. June 236/1 The claim that the knife had been stolen was a vanity and a fraud.
5. Emptiness, lightness; the state of being void or empty; inanity. Obs. rare.
a1400 Stockholm Med. MS. 127 A good oynement for e vanyte of e heed. a1400-50 Alexander 4774 It was bot vacant & voide, as vanite it were. 1587 LEVINS Pathw. Health (1632) 6 For the Vanity of the head Take the iuice of wall-wort,..and therewith annoint the temples.
8. a. Vanity Fair (after quot. 1678 below), a place or scene where all is frivolity and empty show; the world or a section of it as a scene of idle amusement and unsubstantial display.
[1678 BUNYAN Pilgr. (1900) 82 The name of that Town is Vanity; and at the town there is a Fair kept, called Vanity-Fair. It..beareth the name of Vanity-Fair, because the Town where 'tis kept is lighter than Vanity.]
1816 J. SCOTT Vis. Paris (ed. 5) 137 Such is the Palais Royal;a vanity faira mart of sin and seduction! 1827 SCOTT Chron. Canongate iii, Carrying so many bonny lasses to barter modesty for conceit and levity at the metropolitan Vanity Fair. 1857 TROLLOPE Barchester T. III. 110 But how preach..at all in such a vanity fair as this now going on at Ullathorne? 1861 THACKERAY Four Georges 72 Never was such a brilliant, jigging, smirking Vanity Fair as that through which he leads us.
attrib. 1848 THACKERAY Van. Fair xxv, The last scene of her dismal Vanity Fair comedy was fast approaching. Ibid. xli, Assuming that any Vanity Fair feelings subsist in the sphere whither we are bound.
b. Hence Vanity-Fairian. nonce-wd.
1848 THACKERAY Van. Fair xvii, Even with the most selfish disposition, the Vanity Fairian..can't but feel some sympathies and regret.