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Vanity ( Latin vanitas ) is the exaggerated concern for one's own physical beauty or mental perfection , one's own body , appearance and attractiveness or the well-formedness of one's own character.


The boundaries between the natural pleasure in one's own body and exaggerated concern for one's own attractiveness are fluid ( see changing values ). What one person still feels is appropriate is already excessive for the other. See also Narcissus and Vanity publisher . At least in its frequency, people are concerned with this concern more than any other of their fears, which are regularly raised in worry barometers , such as fear of unemployment , illness , environmental degradation and the like.

Vanity as the main sin

In Christian , especially Catholic theology , vanity is counted among the main sins . Vanity diverts man's thinking away from God and towards himself, his body and his exterior.

"All Is Vanity" by Charles Allan Gilbert , illustrates the entanglement of life and death.

Different word meaning

Vanity also has the different, original, but now outdated meaning: transitoriness, nothingness, emptiness and futility (cf. English idle or German thwart something ). In the Baroque in particular , the feeling of transience (see e.g. the Baroque sonnet It is all vain ) of every earthly endeavor was one of the central motifs of literature.

In a competitive environment, the term vanity is also used pejoratively for assigning a more or less pronounced form of classic narcissism to competitors. The sharpness of the semantics can be read off from the choice of words, tone of voice and body language . On the other hand, if a person reports their own vanity, this should be perceived by others as self-critical.


  • François de La Rochefoucauld once remarked: " Modesty is the worst form of vanity".
  • Friedrich Nietzsche : "Vanity is the fear of appearing original, that is, a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality", from: Dawn , Aph. 365
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: “You have to admit to yourself that vain people don't want to please others as well as themselves, and that they go so far as to neglect their advantage; because it is often important to them to vote their fellow human beings unfavorable, hostile, jealous, i.e. harmful against themselves, just to enjoy themselves, to enjoy themselves ”, from: Human, All -too- human , Aph. 89


  • Dorothee Gitzen-Huber (Ed.): From the sense of vanity . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau et al. 1982, ISBN 3-451-19261-6 .
  • Ewald E. Krainz, Horst Groß: Vanity in management . Dr. Th. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-409-18862-2 .
  • Carolin Wörner: Vanity - Reprehensible Vice or Identity-Promoting Power? Lit-Verlag, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-8464-3 .

Web links

Commons : Vanity  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Vanity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations