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Vain, vein, and vane

Vain is an adjective meaning (1) excessively pleased with one’s own appearance or accomplishments, (2) not yielding the desired outcome, and (3) pointless. It’s also used in the idiom in vain, meaning to no avail or in an irreverent manner (as in taking the Lord’s name in vain).

A vein is a membranous tube that carries blood to the heart in animals, and the word has numerous other definitions derived from this one. 

Vane, the least common of the three words, is primarily a shortened form of weathervane, although it has other, rarer uses in engineering, navigation, and math.

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Examples

I asked if he was vain and he said he didn’t think so but you could say he takes care of his appearance. [New Zealand Herald]

Unaware how this innovative production of classic Italian opera would be presented to them, the crowd looked around in vain for a stage. [Guardian]

Zamboni says MS is linked to narrowed veins in the neck that restrict blood flow away from the brain. [Montreal Gazette]

It was a plant with big leaves that had large, visible veins. [Rexburg Standard Journal]

It’s a cat-and-mouse thriller in the vein of Insomnia or Seven, but in this case, the serial killer is the prey. [Bloody Disgusting]

Clark Solutions has introduced the TSFR Series of magnetic drive rotary vane pumps designed for continuous work. [World Pumps]

Thanks to a satellite up-link powered by a generator connected to the wind vane of this 31-foot trimaran, the crew was able to collaborate with their creative team. [Search Engine Journal]

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