Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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ματαιότης ματαιοτήτων, τὰ πάντα ματαιότης.
Mataiótes mataiotéton, tá pánta mataiótes.


Vanity of vanities, and everything is vanity

This Greek phrase continues to be often used. It originates with Greek translation of the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:2. Greek was the predominate language of the early Christian church. The phrase is probably most well-known in English now from the King James translation.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

This phrase is among the most famous from the Book of Ecclesiastes (perhaps second to “to everything there is a season.”)

Interestingly, the translation of “vanity” does not translate perfectly to vanity in the sense we use it today. This is not a text about self-centeredness. The change of the English meaning of that word has caused a change to the general understanding and intention of the phrase. A better translation for English might be “Emptiness of emptiness, and everything is emptiness.” The idea behind the verse is that human efforts are futile, short-lived, and largely pointless.

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