If you do something in vain, you do not succeed in achieving what you intend. ⇒ He stopped at the door, waiting in vain for her to acknowledge his presence. ⇒ It became obvious that all her complaints were in vain.
If you say that something such as someone's death, suffering, or effort was in vain, you mean that it was useless because it did not achieve anything. ⇒ He wants the world to know his son did not die in vain.
The picture of the dignified Dr Benson wrestling with- a recalcitrantdrawer in vain appealed to their elementary sense of humour.Brent-Dyer, Elinor CHALLENGE FOR THE CHALET SCHOOLShe had looked in vain here for the tremulous distortions of El Greco's paintings.Curzon, Clare THE QUEST FOR KAnna waited, worrying for Klaus, worrying too that this visitmight have been in vain.Appiganesi, Lisa DREAMS OF INNOCENCEAll this time, he had stood with his black gelstei in hand trying in vain to steal the dragon's fire.David Zindell THE LIGHTSTONE: BOOK ONE, PART TWO OF THE EA CYCLE