‘To No Avail’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 29, 2022

Wondering what the phrase 'to no avail' means? You've come to the right place. This article will reveal the phrase's meaning and explain when and how to use it.

In short, when something is 'to no avail,' it means it was pointless or unsuccessful. In other words, you didn't get the results you were hoping for.

What Is the Meaning of 'To No Avail?

The word 'avail' refers to something that gets you a step closer to your goal. It comes from the Old French vaill, meaning 'to be worth.' It is a noun that means to be of use or advantage.

So when something is to no avail, the situation has no advantage. It wasn't worth it at all. Whatever you hoped to get out of your efforts did not come to pass.

Here are some synonyms of the expression:

  • Pointless
  • Useless
  • A waste of time
  • Futile
  • Ineffective
  • Worthless
  • Fruitless

The phrase is considered an idiom, and it's a pretty common one that can be used in several contexts, whether formal or casual.

What About 'To Little Avail'?

You might also hear or see the phrase 'to little avail,' which is very similar, although instead of signifying a complete lack of success, it expresses a bit of success but nothing of much importance. For example:

We searched the whole house to little avail: we only found one of the earrings she had lost.

The Verb 'Avail'

You can also use the word 'avail' as a verb. It would be synonymous with 'obtain' or 'gain.' For example, in 12-step recovery programs, there's a famous expression that goes:

Half measures availed us nothing.

This expression means you gain nothing from half-measures; you must go all in because who dares wins!

How to Use 'To No Avail' in a Sentence

Now let's take a look at some example sentences that use the idiom we're currently learning. This should help you understand which kinds of contexts you can use it in.

I tried talking her out of it but to no avail; she's still going to go ahead with moving house.

You can try running away, but it will be to no avail: I'm onto you.

We gave our absolute best performance in yesterday's presentation but to no avail; they didn't sign with us.

He's tried several different medications to no avail; the wart won't go away.

They tried everything to hide the surprise from her but to no avail; she knew it was coming.

The charity has been petitioning for additional funding to no avail for years.

Keep up the good work, Mary. Our efforts may have been to no avail so far, but I have a feeling our luck's about to change.

I've been trying to untangle the knots in the Christmas fairy lights for hours to no avail.

All their efforts were to no avail since dad shut them down as soon as he arrived home.

I've tried all the different kinds of milk that exist to no avail. I don't like any of them!

Concluding Thoughts

Studying English is never to no avail. Keep practicing, and your efforts will be rewarded. You can start by trying to use the idiom you've just learned in your speech or writing. Try to spot opportunities to use it wherever you can.

And head to our blog to learn other English idioms and start practicing those, too!

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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