to little purpose

to little purpose

Also, to no purpose. Of little or no use, in vain, as in Hiring a new lawyer will be to little purpose. The related phrases are sometimes combined in to little or no purpose and used as a general indicator of futility. To little purpose was first recorded in 1560. For a synonym, see to no avail; also see to good purpose.
See also: little, purpose

to little/good/some/no ˈpurpose

(formal) with little, good, etc. result or effect: Another meeting was held, to little purpose.She had used the profits to good purpose and upgraded their software.
See also: good, little, purpose
References in classic literature ?
I was going to halloo after them, although it had been to little purpose, when I observed a huge creature walking after them in the sea, as fast as he could: he waded not much deeper than his knees, and took prodigious strides: but our men had the start of him half a league, and, the sea thereabouts being full of sharp-pointed rocks, the monster was not able to overtake the boat.
The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger.
Arguably there is a debate to be had about who gets sent to clink for it seems to me that we are often too swift to incarcerate at great expense and to little purpose those who pose no threat and who could be punished in other more socially productive ways.
This might be surprising to some readers, since it seems we're surrounded with talk of one sort or another about race, but it's talk to little purpose if few of us are willing or able to listen.