To No Avail: How to Use It

English is a vast language and it is possible you have come across phrases or words that were a...

Hristina Yordanova Written by Hristina Yordanova · 2 min read >
to no avail meaning

English is a vast language and it is possible you have come across phrases or words that were a bit confusing or hard to make sense of.  One such phrase is “to no avail”.

A phrase is a group of words that carries meaning when used together. Among phrases, we have idioms. An idiom is defined by the English dictionary as a phrase that has a meaning that is not literal. These phrases do not represent their ordinary meaning; rather they describe/mean something else.

A common example is break a leg. A first look at this would clearly imply having your legs broken but this actually has a hidden definition. It means good luck! Confusing right? When it comes to idioms, you can’t just get the meaning by looking at the words, you have to understand the hidden meaning to get the real sense of the phrase.

Idioms are present in different languages, cultures, and settings. They are important and common in both spoken and written forms. Idioms make a language more interesting. For instance, using them makes your English sound evolved and original. They may seem difficult but learning them is actually fun. The mystery just makes English more interesting.

What does to no avail mean?

To no avail is an example of an idiom. It has a literal definition and a metaphorical one. To understand both, we should begin by defining our word of the day, avail.

What does avail itself mean?

This depends on how you want to use it. As per the dictionary, avail is a word that means benefit, advantage, or help. As a verb, it means to be of use or advantage.  A different dictionary describes it as an advantage toward the attainment of a goal.

How do you use the word avail?

We can use the word avail either as a noun, a verb, or as a phrase. As a phrase, it would be to no avail.

  • She was of little avail to the group- noun (of little advantage/ help)
  • None of their efforts could  avail Emma – verb (could help)

How do you use no avail in a sentence?

According to the dictionary, to no avail means without success or with little or no result. Its figurative meaning is almost similar to its literal one which is rare in idioms. Let’s see how it can be used in a sentence.


  • We tried to search for the lost keys everywhere to no avail (without success)
  • Her effort to learn the dance was to no avail

Examples of similar phrases

Here are other commonly used and simple idioms, together with their true definition.

Examples  are:

  • Piece of cake

No, this does not mean a slice of cake. Rather, it means that something is really easy or simple. Example in a sentence:

The assignment they gave us was a piece of cake.

  • Raining cats and dogs

Can it rain cats and dogs? Well, not really. This phrase simply means raining heavily.


It rained cats and dogs on the wedding day; hence why the driver missed the exit sign on the highway.

  • Stabbed in the back

This phrase might seem obvious but it means betrayal by someone you trusted.


My best friend stabbed me in the back

These are just a few of the English idioms that we see or hear frequently.

There are so many idioms you will find if you search the internet or even the dictionary, it is impossible to list them all here. It is advisable to find more and learn them to improve your English.

Written by Hristina Yordanova
Hristina Yordanova has a Cambridge CPE certification in English and is now pursuing her International Journalism for Media Professionals at the Edinburgh Napier University. She regularly contributes to Cryptopolitan.com and EnglishForward.com from their inception. Her well-written perceptive articles have attracted a steady audience. Profile