Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.


a. Being or having no beneficial use; ineffective: This pen is useless because it's out of ink. See Synonyms at futile.
b. Having no purpose or reason; pointless; to no avail: It's useless to argue over matters of taste.
2. Incapable of acting or functioning effectively; ineffectual or inept: He panics easily and is useless in an emergency.

use′less·ly adv.
use′less·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  1. As much use as a life preserver to a duck —Anon
  2. Effective as a bullet —Edgar Saltus
  3. Effective as an umbrella in a hurricane —Anon
  4. Effective as bailing out a boat with a sieve —Anon
  5. Effective as chicken soup. It can’t hurt —Anon
  6. Effective as dousing a fire with a dixie cup full of water —Anon
  7. Effective as fixing a broken leg with a bandaid —Anon
  8. Feel like an old clerk on a high stool —Wilfrid Sheed
  9. Handy as a pocket in a shirt —Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms
  10. Helpful as a bathing suit in a blizzard —Ed McBain
  11. (The information was probably as) helpful as a wooden compass —William Mcllvanney
  12. Helpful as throwing a drowning man both ends of a rope —Arthur Baer
  13. Ineffective as breaking into a bank vault and taking a bag of pennies —Anon
  14. Ineffective like putting the steak on the fire and the skillet on top of the steak —Norman Mailer
  15. Ineffective, like sending flies in pursuit of fly paper —Elliot Janeway, Barron’s, January 20, 1986
  16. (Lonely and) ineffectual as two left-handed gloves —Helen Rowland
  17. Ineffectually as a firefly in Hell —Stephen Vincent Benet
  18. It [Medicare’s health-care coverage] is like walking around in a bulletproof vest with a hole over the heart —Senator John Heinz, Wall Street Journal, October 15, 1986
  19. It’s [everything valued by others] like so much fluff —Anton Chekhov
  20. A lot of useless barging around, like a man with his sleeve in a thresher —Richard Ford
  21. Making lists is like taking too many notes at school; you feel you’ve achieved something when you haven’t —Dodie Smith
  22. Pointless … like you’d give caviar to an elephant —William Faulkner
  23. (Educating you would be about as) redundant as teaching a lion to like red meat —line from movie Victor-Victoria, spoken by Julie Andrews
  24. Sending a teacher into a classroom with no cane is like sending a boxer into the ring with one hand tied behind his back —Philip Squire
  25. Some men are like a clock on a roof … useful only to the neighbors —Austin O’Malley
  26. Some people are like wheelbarrows, only useful when pushed, and very easily upset —Jack Hebert
  27. Unhelpful … like someone running round with black-currant lozenges to the victims of an earthquake —Josephine Tey
  28. Unnecessary as another designer label —Anon
  29. Useful as a bale of hay in a garage —Anon
  30. Useful as a bicyle without tires —Anon
  31. Useful as a buttonhole without buttons —Anon
  32. Useful as a comb to a bald man —Anon
  33. Useful as a defective parachute —Anon
  34. Useful as an annuity —Anon
  35. Useful as an umbrella to a fish —Anon
  36. Useful as a pocket with a big hole in it —Anon
  37. Useful as a sixth finger —Anon
  38. Useful as a Swiss army knife —Anon
  39. Useful as a thermometer or a scale without markings —Anon
  40. Useful as a third nostril —Peter Benchley
  41. Useful as hayfever when the pollen count is high —Mike Fredman
  42. Useful as information trying to convey the locality and intentions of a cloud —Joseph Conrad
  43. Useful as teats on a boar hog —American colloquialism
  44. Useful as the marketable skill mom told you to acquire —Anon
  45. Useless as a bell that doesn’t ring —Anon
  46. Useless as putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound —Anon
  47. Useless as a broken feather —Anon
  48. Useless as a bump on a log —Anon

    A variation on this familiar simile from The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley: “Stood around like a knot on a log.”

  49. Useless as a car without gasoline —Anon
  50. Useless as a glass eye at a keyhole —Louis Monta Bell
  51. Useless … as a half-built bridge —William H. Hallhan
  52. Useless as an expectant lover —Ellen Glasgow
  53. Useless as a single glove —Anon
  54. Useless as a torn sock —Marianne Hauser
  55. Useless as a twisted arm —Desmond O’Grady
  56. Useless as Ronald Reagan’s right ear —Joseph Wambaugh
  57. Useless … like buying an air conditioner for a building without electricity —Anon
  58. Useless … like the cow that gives a good pail of milk, and then kicks it over —H. G. Bohn’s Handbook of Proverbs
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.uselessness - the quality of having no practical useuselessness - the quality of having no practical use
quality - an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone; "the quality of mercy is not strained"--Shakespeare
futility - uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result
worthlessness - the quality of being without practical use
impracticality - concerned with theoretical possibilities rather than actual use
impracticability, impracticableness - the quality of not being usable
usefulness, utility - the quality of being of practical use
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. The condition or quality of being useless or ineffective:
2. The condition or state of being incapable of accomplishing or effecting anything:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


[ˈjuːslɪsnɪs] N (= ineffectualness) → inutilidad f; (= pointlessness) → lo inútil
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈjuːsləsnɪs] n
[object, machine, information] → inutilité f
(= futility) → inutilité f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(= worthlessness)Nutzlosigkeit f; (of sth unusable)Unbrauchbarkeit f; (of person)Nutzlosigkeit f; (of teacher, manager, player)Unbrauchbarkeit f; (of school)Untauglichkeit f; (of remedy)Unwirksamkeit f
(= pointlessness)Zwecklosigkeit f, → Sinnlosigkeit f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007
References in classic literature ?
At any rate, I have all my life, as it were, turned my eyes away and never could look people straight in the face.) To blame, finally, because even if I had had magnanimity, I should only have had more suffering from the sense of its uselessness. I should certainly have never been able to do anything from being magnanimous--neither to forgive, for my assailant would perhaps have slapped me from the laws of nature, and one cannot forgive the laws of nature; nor to forget, for even if it were owing to the laws of nature, it is insulting all the same.
When the folly as well as the uselessness of the adventure was pointed out to him, he contented himself with replying, "If the thing is feasible, the first to do it ought to be an Englishman."
This appeal is not always a charm, for there are estuaries of a particularly dispiriting ugliness: lowlands, mud- flats, or perhaps barren sandhills without beauty of form or amenity of aspect, covered with a shabby and scanty vegetation conveying the impression of poverty and uselessness. Sometimes such an ugliness is merely a repulsive mask.
Without touching upon its uselessness in all points of view, he regarded the experiment as fraught with extreme danger, both to the citizens, who might sanction by their presence so reprehensible a spectacle, and also to the towns in the neighborhood of this deplorable cannon.
The chief steward, a very stupid but cunning man who saw perfectly through the naive and intelligent count and played with him as with a toy, seeing the effect these prearranged receptions had on Pierre, pressed him still harder with proofs of the impossibility and above all the uselessness of freeing the serfs, who were quite happy as it was.
He talked and looked at her laughing eyes, which frightened him now with their impenetrable look, and, as he talked, he felt all the uselessness and idleness of his words.
Her paroxysms of exhilaration, followed by a gnawing sense of failure and uselessness, were known to her mother only as "wildness" and "low spirits," to be combated by needlework as a sedative, or beef tea as a stimulant.
Campbell knew the uselessness of any prevarication with an Indian; and the importance of complete frankness.
He shrugged his shoulders in token, not of consent, but of surrender, knowing the uselessness of attempting to argue the question with her, and consoling himself with the reflection that heaven alone knew what adventures she was liable to engage in if left alone on Berande for a week.
Then, recollecting the utter uselessness of contention with such a nature, she shut her lips resolutely, gathered herself up, and walked out of the room.
She was conscious of his aim, and in her better moods endured his efforts placidly, only showing their uselessness by now and then suppressing a wearied sigh, and checking him at last with the saddest of smiles and kisses.
She saw the uselessness of resisting him any longer; and, taking the candle, went before him upstairs.