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The Winding Histories of “Vein” and “Vain”

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The English words vein and vain may be homophones, but they come from completely different etymological roots. Vein traveled into English via Old French veine, which in turn came from Latin vena, meaning “blood vessel.” Vain, meaning “conceited,” also found its way into English via Old French, but comes from the Latin vanus meaning “empty,” or “void.” The name Vanity Fair originally appeared in John Bunyan’s 1676 book Pilgrim’s Progress (Bookshop|Amazon), and referred to a place of inhabitants preoccupied with earthly pleasures. This is part of a complete episode.

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