There is a lot of controversy surrounding the word “vanity,” especially in modern times. The term is derived from the Old English poem ‘Ave Maria’, which is essentially the same thing, but it carries different connotations. One definition of vanity is the desire to be beautiful, and the opposite is vanity. This aversion to vanity, however, is not unique to this text. Throughout history, the Bible has frequently used the term.
The Latin term “omnia vanitas” is used to describe a subject’s entire preoccupation with appearance, as well as the futility of human endeavor in this world. The book of Ecclesiastes makes no mention of the vanity of man or of his appearance, but instead calls it all a “vanity” – a word that means ’emptiness’. While not necessarily the most attractive, this word describes the irrational thinking and feelings of the self.
The word ‘vanity’ refers to all of life’s glories. In the original Hebrew, it meant the obsession with appearance. Today, it means the fruitlessness of human efforts in this world. In fact, the Bible often uses the term ‘vanitas’ in a manner that goes far beyond its original context, allowing the use of the word outside of the Bible. This re-contextualization of the words “vanity” has led to various translations of this text.