English edit

Etymology edit

Inherited from Middle English fruytles; equivalent to fruit +‎ -less. Compare Middle English withouten fruyt (fruitless, literally without fruit).

Pronunciation edit

Adjective edit

fruitless (comparative more fruitless, superlative most fruitless)

  1. Bearing no fruit; barren.
    • 2008, Rowan Jacobsen, “Breakfast in America”, in Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury USA, →ISBN, page 20:
      [S]he [Rachel Carson] also warned of falls in which "there was no pollination and there would be no fruit." [] The entomologist Stephen L. Buchmann and the crop ecologist Gary Paul Nabhan amplified Carson's warning in their 1996 book, The Forgotten Pollinators. They predicted fruitless falls unless our land-use patterns changed fast. But few people paid attention.
  2. (figuratively) Unproductive, useless.
    The unskilled man’s attempt at fixing his car engine was fruitless.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto VII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 55, page 287:
      Here alſo ſprong that goodly golden fruit, / With which Acontius got his louer trew, / Whom he had long time ſought with fruitleſſe ſuit; []
    • 1634, Iohn Downame [i.e., John Downame], “How We Must Arme Our Selues against Satans Tentations, whereby Hee Laboureth to Makefruitless the Word of God Fruitlesse”, in The Christian Warfare against the Deuill[,] World and Flesh:  [], 4th corrected and enlarged edition, London: Printed by William Stansby [for Philemon Stephens and Christopher Meredith], →OCLC, page 181, column 1:
      [I]f we preſent our ſelues, raſhly and vnaduiſedly, as if we went to a play, or to diſpatch ſome worldly buſineſſe; wee ſhall hardly keepe our minds from negligent wandring and worldly diſtractions, which will make the Word of God fruitleſſe and vnprofitable.
    • 1749, [John Cleland], “(Please specify the letter or volume)”, in Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill], London: [] G. Fenton [i.e., Fenton and Ralph Griffiths] [], →OCLC, page 106:
      [A]t length, after repeated fruitleſs trials, he lay down panting by me, kiſs'd my falling tears, and aſk'd me tenderly, what was the meaning of ſo much complaining, and if I had not born it better from other than I did from him?
    • 1762, John Bunyan, “Luke xiii. Ver. 8, 9.”, in The Barren Fig-tree: Or, The Doom and Downfall of the Fruitless Professor. [], London: Printed for W. Johnston, [], →OCLC, doctrine II, page 93:
      [W]hatever Preparations ſoever are made for the Salvation of Sinners, and of how long ſoever they are, yet the God-tempting, God-provoking, and fruitleſs Profeſſor is like to go without a Share therein: []
    • 1820 July 31, The Times, number 10,999, London, page 2, column 5:
      We wish to speak temperately of what assumes a Russian dress and name, under the auspices of the Emperor Alexander; but we rejoice that the overbearing doctrines of his Minister failed to abash or intimidate the Neapolitans; and we do trust, from the bottom of our souls, that, as they did not avert the revolution of Naples, so they will be fruitless to check the course of that noble regeneration of which they could not debar the virtuous and long-suffering Spaniards, or impair those vast blessings with which it is pregnant to the civilized world.
    • 1861 April 23, Thomas Ballard, “Reports of Societies. Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. [A Previously Unobserved Preventable Cause of Idiocy, Imbecility, and the Allied Affections.]”, in The Medical Times and Gazette. A Journal of Medical Science, Literature, Criticism, and News, volume I, number 567, London: Printed for John Churchill, [], published 11 May 1861, →OCLC, page 506:
      A large majority of them bear evidence of long-continued habits of fruitless sucking in the deformity of the jaws, which is caused by some portion of the hand being placed in the mouth for the purpose of sucking it at a period of life when the bones were soft enough to yield to its pressure.
  3. (figuratively, archaic) Of a person: unable to have children; barren, infertile.
    The fruitless woman desperately wanted to have children.
    • 1658, Thomas Browne, “The Garden of Cyrus. []. Chapter V.”, in Hydriotaphia, Urne-buriall, [] Together with The Garden of Cyrus, [], London: [] Hen[ry] Brome [], →OCLC, page 192:
      According to that Cabaliſticall Dogma: If Abram had not had this Letter [i.e., ה (he)] added unto his Name he had remained fruitleſſe, and without the power of generation: [] So that being ſterill before, he received the power of generation from that meaſure and manſion in the Archetype; and was made conformable unto Binah.
  4. (rare) Of a diet, etc.: without fruit.
    • 1923, The Homestead, Bloemfontein: The Proprietors, →OCLC, page 33, column 1:
      The first fruits of the season were eagerly sought after, and everybody was thankful that once more dread winter with its unvarying monotony of fruitless meals was a thing of the past.
    • 1966, Joseph I[rving] Goodman, Alice Propst Hoover, Diet and Live: A Guide to Corrective Eating, Cleveland, Oh.: World Publishing Company, →OCLC, page 14:
      Bearing this fact in mind will help dispel the confusion and apparent contradictions that surround us in the field of nutrition—the many individual claims as to the ideal diet, for instance, the high-carbohydrate diet, the milkless diet, the breadless diet, the meatless diet, the fruit diet or the fruitless diet, the high-protein or the low-protein diet, and innumerable variations.

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