adj. emp·ti·er, emp·ti·est
a. Having nothing inside or on the surface; holding or containing nothing: an empty bag; an empty lot.
b. Mathematics Having no elements or members; null: an empty set.
a. Having no occupants; not being used: an empty chair.
b. Not having an incumbent or occupant; unfilled: an empty post at the embassy.
c. Not put to purposeful use; idle: empty hours.
3. Lacking force or power: an empty threat.
4. Lacking purpose or substance; meaningless: an empty life.
5. Needing nourishment; hungry: "More fierce and more inexorable far / Than empty tigers or the roaring sea" (Shakespeare).
6. Devoid; destitute: empty of pity.
v. emp·tied, emp·ty·ing, emp·ties
1. To remove the contents of: emptied the dishwasher.
2. To transfer or pour off completely: empty the ashes into a pail.
3. To unburden; relieve: empty oneself of doubt.
1. To become empty: The theater emptied after the performance.
2. To discharge its contents: The river empties into a bay.
n. pl. emp·ties
An empty container.
[Middle English, from Old English ǣmtig, vacant, unoccupied, from ǣmetta, leisure; see med- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: empty, vacant, blank, void, vacuous
These adjectives mean without contents that could or should be present. Empty is the broadest and can apply to what lacks contents (an empty box), occupants (an empty seat), or substance (an empty promise). Vacant has a similar range of application, including lacking an occupant (a vacant auditorium), an incumbent (a vacant position), or something useful or substantial (a vacant lot); it can also refer to what is without intelligence or expression (a vacant stare). Blank applies specifically to the absence of writing or images on a surface (a blank page; a blank screen) and can extend to a lack of awareness or understanding (a blank look). Void emphasizes the utter degree to which something is lacking, whether physical (a planet void of life) or intangible (a humdrum performance void of spirit or energy). Vacuous describes what is lacking in substance, interest, or intelligence (vacuous entertainment; a vacuous personality). See Also Synonyms at vain.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.