adjective, emp·ti·er, emp·ti·est.

  1. containing nothing; having none of the usual or appropriate contents: an empty bottle.
  2. vacant; unoccupied: an empty house.
  3. without cargo or load: an empty wagon.
  4. destitute of people or human activity: We walked along the empty streets of the city at night.
  5. destitute of some quality or qualities; devoid (usually followed by of): Theirs is a life now empty of happiness.
  6. without force, effect, or significance; hollow; meaningless: empty compliments; empty pleasures.
  7. not employed in useful activity or work; idle: empty summer days.
  8. Mathematics. (of a set) containing no elements; null; void.
  9. hungry: I’m feeling rather empty—let’s have lunch.
  10. without knowledge or sense; frivolous; foolish: an empty head.
  11. completely spent of emotion: The experience had left him with an empty heart.

verb (used with object), emp·tied, emp·ty·ing.

  1. to make empty; deprive of contents; discharge the contents of: to empty a bucket.
  2. to discharge (contents): to empty the water out of a bucket.

verb (used without object), emp·tied, emp·ty·ing.

  1. to become empty: The room emptied rapidly after the lecture.
  2. to discharge contents, as a river: The river empties into the sea.

noun, plural emp·ties.

  1. Informal. something that is empty, as a box, bottle, or can: Throw the empties into the waste bin.

adjective -tier or -tiest

  1. containing nothing
  2. without inhabitants; vacant or unoccupied
  3. carrying no load, passengers, etc
  4. without purpose, substance, or valuean empty life
  5. insincere or trivialempty words
  6. not expressive or vital; vacantshe has an empty look
  7. informal hungry
  8. (postpositive foll by of) devoid; destitutea life empty of happiness
  9. informal drained of energy or emotionafter the violent argument he felt very empty
  10. maths logic (of a set or class) containing no members
  11. philosophy logic (of a name or description) having no reference

verb -ties, -tying or -tied

  1. to make or become empty
  2. (when intr, foll by into) to discharge (contents)
  3. (tr often foll by of) to unburden or rid (oneself)to empty oneself of emotion

noun plural -ties

  1. an empty container, esp a bottle

c.1200, from Old English æmettig “at leisure, not occupied, unmarried,” from æmetta “leisure,” from æ “not” + -metta, from motan “to have” (see might (n.)). The -p- is a euphonic insertion.

Sense evolution from “at leisure” to “empty” is paralleled in several languages, e.g. Modern Greek adeios “empty,” originally “freedom from fear,” from deios “fear.” “The adj. adeios must have been applied first to persons who enjoyed freedom from duties, leisure, and so were unoccupied, whence it was extended to objects that were unoccupied” [Buck].

The adjective also yielded a verb (1520s), replacing Middle English empten, from Old English geæmtigian. Related: Emptied; emptying. Figurative sense of empty-nester first attested 1987. Empty-handed attested from 1610s.

In addition to the idioms beginning with empty

  • empty calories
  • empty nest
  • empty suit

also see:

  • glass is half full (half empty)
  • running on empty
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