What is the word for something where no matter how many times we repeat an action, it has no bearing on the outcome?

e.g. pressing the 'close doors' button on an elevator repeatedly doesn't make the doors close faster.

e.g. repeatedly clicking the mouse when your computer freezes doesn't help it unfreeze.

Example sentence:

"Repeatedly pressing the 'close doors' button in an elevator is a [insert word here] action"

  • Hello, Jack, and welcome to EL&U. While your question is quite interesting, it would benefit from including a sample sentence with a blank for the target language. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:20
  • @Cascabel Hmm, not too sure how it could be used in a sentence. Other than saying "repeatedly pressing the 'close doors' button in an elevator is a [insert word here] action" Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:28
  • I see Cascabel is beating a dead horse again.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 1:46
  • @HotLicks Ever read Red Sky at Morning? The "best" way to play "beat a dead horse" is it's gotta be left out in the sun for a couple days, the longer the better, and you gotta actually fall into it, guts and all. Seriously...I been away for awhile. It's no longer a requirement, or am I just flogging my norton? Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 2:07
  • @Cascabel - Will you get off your high horse! (Or at least quit gunning the engine.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 21:25

6 Answers 6


I'd suggest the word Futile.

According to Cambridge dictionary:

(of actions) having no effect or achieving nothing

"His men made repeated but ultimately futile attempts to retrieve his body from no-man's land."

Synonyms: fruitless, vain, pointless.


You could call it:


not producing the proper or intended effect

-Merriam Webster online


Repeatedly pressing the 'close doors' button in an elevator is an ineffectual action

Not a single word, but:

illusion of control

The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.


It is a type of cognitive bias sometimes called a positive illusion. Sorry for the Wiki quote...still struggling through Thompson and Angler to find a better source.

You might find this post on Psychology and Neuroscience.SE (beta) relevant.

  • Hi Cascabel, thank you for your detailed answer. Now, I may be imagining things but I am 95% sure that I read something somewhere about a single word for such an action. So, for now, I won't mark this as the accepted answer Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:27
  • @jackchmbrln if you have any other clues please include feel free to edit your Q....BTW...you still need to include a sample sentence. Please think about the part of speech. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:28

An action is idempotent if performing it multiple times has the same effect as performing it just once.

Pressing the 'close doors' button in an elevator is an idempotent action


A repeated but unnecessary action could be called redundant.

Note: I was going to suggest idempotent, but had to content myself with upvoting an answer that beat me to the punch!


Superfluous unnecessary, especially through being more than enough. Source

  • please add a source for your definition
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 14:38

an effete action or result TFD

depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness; exhausted

As in:

With his screen frozen, he resorted to the effete and repetitive clicking of the computer mouse.

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