Definition of empty in English:



  • 1Containing nothing; not filled or occupied.

    ‘he took his empty coffee cup back to the counter’
    ‘the room was empty of furniture’
    • ‘The upstairs flat has been empty for four years.’
    • ‘One glass was empty, one glass was full, the third was gone.’
    • ‘Will raised his nearly empty beer bottle in a salute.’
    • ‘When they looked inside, they found the hall mostly empty.’
    • ‘The waiting room was mostly empty, containing only a middle-aged couple and three teenagers.’
    • ‘Stadiums that are full for regular-season games have rows of empty seats for exhibitions.’
    • ‘If patients develop a fever or nausea they are admitted to hospital, where some beds are held empty for this purpose.’
    • ‘Before he could answer, the waitress came over and filled their empty cups with coffee.’
    • ‘The empty seat that he picked happened to be the seat next to Ryoko.’
    • ‘The pain was the result of nervous exhaustion and an empty stomach, David says.’
    • ‘Posts are being left empty for six months at a time because of the manpower shortage.’
    • ‘And, of course, conferences are generally held at an offpeak time of the year when there are plenty of empty beds to fill.’
    • ‘Black holes are almost completely empty space that is forever cut off from our own Universe.’
    • ‘Clinics, built by foreign donors, have stood empty for years, lacking staff and equipment.’
    • ‘The room was virtually empty except for a few chairs and a table.’
    • ‘The building looked as though it had stood empty for years.’
    • ‘Solano clipped the ball past the isolated goalkeeper to score into an empty net.’
    • ‘She pawed at my leg, telling me that her food bowl was empty and she was hungry.’
    • ‘Another former detainee was released with no money or food and spent yesterday alone and hungry in his empty accommodation.’
    vacant, unoccupied, uninhabited, untenanted, clear, free, bare, desolate, deserted, abandoned
    containing nothing, without contents, unfilled, not filled, void, emptied
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    1. 1.1Mathematics (of a set) containing no members or elements.
      • ‘In this case, the allowable value range for contract prices is an empty set.’
      • ‘So, with changes in k, the core for this example progresses from an interval, to a point, to the empty set.’
      • ‘Suppose that instead of asking for a convex subset, you wanted an empty convex subset.’
      • ‘The set-theoretic hierarchy is thoroughly abstract, consisting of the empty set, the powerset of the empty set, and so on.’
      • ‘Parmenides claimed that we cannot conceptualize nothing, the empty set.’
  • 2(of words or a gesture) lacking meaning or sincerity.

    ‘his answer sounded a little empty’
    ‘empty threats’
    • ‘His uncle always buys him and his brother chocolate, but it feels empty.’
    • ‘Too much blood has been shed, too many empty promises have been made.’
    • ‘We all have sordid purposes and empty intents and material incentives.’
    • ‘My fear is that these empty gestures will become the last remaining symbols of our shared belief in egalitarianism.’
    • ‘They shouldn't miss their opportunity because politicians are filling the air with empty noises.’
    • ‘The accent, though, is more often on ethical values rather than on empty practices.’
    • ‘But forgiving poor countries' debts without agreeing on a better framework for future aid flows is an empty gesture.’
    • ‘The threats appeared to be empty gestures to the friends who overheard him.’
    • ‘The last thing children with incarcerated parents need is more rhetoric and empty promises.’
    • ‘The official curbing of television violence is not an idle or empty threat.’
    • ‘This declaration was not an empty threat but a sincere promise.’
    • ‘When the Republic threatens you, their words are never empty.’
    • ‘Normally I would think this would be a meaningless, empty statement, but hopefully it will be a bit more for you than that.’
    • ‘These apologies were empty gestures and nothing more.’
    • ‘Offensive words, empty gestures, and the inappropriate use of symbols can get in the way of worship.’
    • ‘The rather empty gesture is clearly aimed at increasing public sympathy for the idea.’
    • ‘These words are so empty, however, to grieving parents who have lost a child.’
    • ‘A principled stand in defence of the human rights of children is not an empty gesture.’
    • ‘Don't simply opt for apparently powerful but ultimately empty, meaningless rhetoric.’
    meaningless, aimless, worthless, useless, idle, vain, insubstantial, ineffective, ineffectual
    futile, pointless, purposeless, motiveless, worthless, meaningless, valueless, of no value, useless, of no use, senseless, hollow, barren, unsatisfactory, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, trivial, trifling, nugatory
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  • 3Having no value or purpose.

    ‘her life felt empty and meaningless’
    • ‘It seems to work just fine, doesn't it, your ability to drown your emotions in empty sexual encounters.’
    • ‘If one reason remained for her to persevere with the exhausting and empty void that her life had become, it was the child.’
    • ‘Is the point that life is empty and pointless - a farce of creation without function or utility?’
    • ‘This young man believes life would be empty and dull without music.’
    • ‘He fills long days and empty nights by creating a fiddle, and frees his thoughts as he liberates the fiddle from the wood.’
    • ‘The dream was fading away, and all I had was this hollow, empty pain inside.’
    • ‘I think that every one of us should find his own truth, some idea for which one can live or die - otherwise our lives would be empty and meaningless.’
    • ‘And what a relentlessly dull, completely empty experience it tends to be.’
    • ‘One side wrote her off as a valueless thing, the empty remains of a once-vital woman.’
    • ‘Without longing we are empty, emotionless shells, mere objects floating on the wishy-washy surface of life.’
    meaningless, aimless, worthless, useless, idle, vain, insubstantial, ineffective, ineffectual
    futile, pointless, purposeless, motiveless, worthless, meaningless, valueless, of no value, useless, of no use, senseless, hollow, barren, unsatisfactory, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, trivial, trifling, nugatory
    View synonyms
  • 4informal Hungry.


  • 1 Remove all the contents of (a container)

    ‘we empty the cash register each night at closing time’
    ‘pockets were emptied of loose change’
    • ‘By the end of the first night the bag had been emptied of its contents.’
    • ‘Now ' freedom ' is being emptied of meaning and reduced to a slogan.’
    • ‘The litter bins are emptied regularly and litter picking is done on a regular basis.’
    • ‘Hydro and Copo glowered at each other, and emptied out their pockets.’
    • ‘Although the bins are regularly emptied, there is a high demand for the facility.’
    • ‘The tank is emptied using an exhauster truck manned by trained personnel.’
    • ‘Tills were emptied of cash and the thieves took jewellery and money from customers and staff, police report.’
    • ‘So, do something for me now: empty your purse or wallet onto your desk and then extract all of the important documents and cards from the pile.’
    • ‘The bag is then emptied as often as necessary.’
    • ‘I think that she emptied all the cupboards during her little midnight snack, and she had an accomplice.’
    • ‘While she was doing this, she lost property, including a gold watch, and her purse was emptied of cash.’
    • ‘When you urinate, try leaning forward a bit in order to completely empty your bladder.’
    • ‘People are reminded that these bins are for litter only and have to be emptied on a regular basis.’
    • ‘He then emptied the whole bottle of spirits on to the clothing and set it alight.’
    • ‘From time to time these containers are emptied into rivers causing devastation to ecosystems within hours.’
    • ‘He didn't do much preparation either, and ended up packing all his dirty clothes - basically by emptying the laundry basket into his suitcase.’
    • ‘He emptied the basket, removed two tins of plum tomatoes, put them on the floor and repacked.’
    • ‘I stood up and emptied out my front pockets.’
    unload, unpack, unburden, disburden, clear, make vacant, vacate, evacuate, void
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    1. 1.1Remove (the contents) from a container.
      ‘he emptied out the contents of his briefcase’
      • ‘The pouch's remaining contents was emptied out into her waiting palm and then applied to her mass of hair.’
      • ‘I have now emptied the entire contents onto my bed in an attempt to ensure that I sort it all before falling into bed!’
      • ‘She emptied the contents onto the table but there was no sign.’
      • ‘He emptied the contents into the toilet and used the containers as raw material for his sculpture.’
      • ‘The sky is filled with the remnants of the enormous cumulonimbus rain clouds that have been building up, emptying their contents and building up again all day.’
      • ‘She began emptying its contents onto the floor.’
      • ‘Even so, a steady trickle of boxes flowed through the living and dining rooms, and their contents were emptied and loaded into the new storage and display units.’
      drain, discharge, draw off, extract, withdraw, remove, siphon off, pump out, pour out, tap, milk, bleed
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    2. 1.2[no object](of a place) be vacated by people in it.
      ‘the bar suddenly seemed to empty’
      • ‘As the night sky grew darker, the park slowly emptied.’
      • ‘The streets of the centre of the city emptied as frightened residents fled home to take shelter.’
      • ‘Many fans eventually wandered back out to their seats, but early in the fourth quarter, the place emptied for good.’
      • ‘The final bell rings and the rooms empty out before the teachers can even look up from their books.’
      • ‘The city emptied as the population was marched to the countryside.’
      • ‘Then he says ‘okay we go’ and I notice that the staff room has emptied.’
      • ‘Shops closed and the streets emptied as people took shelter in their houses, although by noon the situation appeared to have calmed.’
      • ‘As the room slowly emptied, the only guests left were Ryan and Mr. Thompson.’
      • ‘We had reached her locker by now, and the hall was emptying rapidly.’
      • ‘One of the reasons is that small towns are emptying fast.’
      • ‘The balloons were falling, but the room was emptying already.’
      • ‘They remain open till around 9 p.m. and board up only when the roads start emptying.’
      • ‘As he glided towards his victim, the hall emptied.’
      • ‘By nightfall, the road emptied, and dozens of lights from campfires dotted the tree line on both sides.’
      • ‘When the forum was over, the tension was all but gone, and there was much socializing and shaking of hands as the room emptied.’
      • ‘The room had emptied rather quickly, and not even the king remained.’
      • ‘Some think the reading rooms will empty out in favor of the virtual library.’
      • ‘By now the hall had emptied, as it was clear it was only me being weird again.’
      • ‘Swindon's streets had emptied as the town united for the big day.’
    3. 1.3[no object](of a river) discharge itself into (the sea or a lake)
      • ‘Because the Selby canal empties into a tidal river, navigating the lock that links the two can be tricky.’
      • ‘While many of Australia's rivers are, in fact dry, up here big tidal rivers empty into the ocean.’
      • ‘It's just like a supermarket because city residents throw everything into the rivers, which empty into the bay.’
      • ‘From there, it winds down through grassy expanses for 15 miles and then flows for eight miles through the middle of the Bronx before emptying into the upper East River.’
      • ‘Here the Dauphin River empties into the Dauphin Bay.’
      • ‘Double Bridges Creek, located in the south-central section of the county, flows southwest and empties into the Pea River.’
      • ‘That would improve the water volume of 145 rivers, which empty into the lake.’
      • ‘And then, around one of its many bends, the river rapidly emptied into a lake many leagues across and ringed by small hills.’
      • ‘There was a waterfall that emptied into a small lake.’
      • ‘Much of this ground water recharges into streams which eventually empty into the Mississippi River, a major source of drinking water for the Twin Cities metro area.’
      • ‘At the back of Biggs Avenue, there was a swampy area that emptied into the sea.’
      • ‘Most locations were close to tributaries emptying into the Little Manatee River.’
      • ‘The polluted runoff of excess nutrients emptying into the river basin is the cause of a 5,000-mile ‘dead zone’ of low oxygen that no longer supports marine life.’
      • ‘I figured that parallel valleys all drained to the same place, so I tramped downstream along a creek until it emptied into a river adjacent to an unfamiliar trail.’
      • ‘We have seen it in brackish water near the mouths of several rivers and creeks that empty into Great South Bay.’
      • ‘As there are no rivers emptying into it, Red Sea waters are unusually clear and free of sediment.’
      • ‘A narrow river-nothing more than a stream-meandered through the woods before emptying into the lake.’
      • ‘The most important rivers that empty into the Caspian Sea are the following: Volga, the Ural, the Tirek and the Kura.’
      • ‘More recently, we heard of the huge oil pollution event in the tributaries of the Pechora River, which empties into the southern Barents Sea.’
      • ‘The Colorado River doesn't even empty into the ocean anymore because so much of it has been diverted for irrigation.’


  • A container (especially a bottle or glass) left empty of its contents.

    • ‘A couple of hundred yards away in a wooded area just beyond the local Leisure Park another major collection of empties awaits.’
    • ‘The grass where I stood to take these pictures was littered with empties, mostly bourbon-and-cola bottles.’
    • ‘He pointed to a yellow plastic crate with the empties neatly stacked among full bottles.’
    • ‘She drained the beer and tossed the empty into the bin with the others.’
    • ‘Just at that moment, Dixie came over and collected our empties.’
    • ‘Service was quick and friendly and the collection of empties swift.’
    • ‘Blair tossed his empty into the waste basket then crossed the room to his bed.’
    • ‘I think it is clear from the evidence that he was employed as a roundsman to drive his float round his round and to deliver milk, to collect empties and to obtain payment.’


  • running on empty

    • Exhausted of all one's resources or sustenance.

      • ‘I will be running on empty, my life fuelled only by the adrenaline created by feelings of constant panic and dread.’
      • ‘Next time you're running on empty, reach for an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, plain low-fat yogurt with a cup of berries, or wholegrain toast with an ounce of cheese.’
      • ‘I'd been away for a long time and I was running on empty by the end.’
      • ‘After about three hours of high-intensity movement, you're essentially running on empty.’
      • ‘I've been running on empty for over two weeks now.’
      • ‘The city is running on empty, yet the amount of money considered necessary to feed the police force is growing by leaps and bounds.’
      • ‘He goes on to suggest that America is now an empire running on empty, backing away from the crucial imperial commitments of time, money and manpower - and resting on perilous financial foundations.’
      • ‘Plus, I was exhausted, running on empty by then.’
      • ‘However, despite the fact that what happened was in the best interests of the spectators, it does not disguise the fact that this England team is running on empty.’
      • ‘The ground was operating at full capacity while the teams' inventive faculties were running on empty.’
      tired out, worn out, weary, dog-tired, bone-tired, bone-weary, ready to drop, on one's last legs, asleep on one's feet, drained, fatigued, enervated, debilitated, spent
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  • empty vessels make the most noise (or sound)

    • proverb Those with least wisdom or knowledge are always the most talkative.

  • on an empty stomach


Old English ǣmtig, ǣmetig at leisure, unoccupied, empty from ǣmetta leisure perhaps from ā no, not + mōt meeting (see moot).