busy·​work | \ ˈbi-zē-ˌwərk How to pronounce busywork (audio) \

Definition of busywork

: work that usually appears productive or of intrinsic value but actually only keeps one occupied

Examples of busywork in a Sentence

Students were given busywork for the last few minutes of class.

Recent Examples on the Web

Windmills aside, there are too few special twists to State of Decay 2’s world and upgrades to justify what quickly becomes survival busywork. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "State of Decay 2 review: Shambling toward nothing," 22 May 2018 By mixing some of the best features of comics, video games, and animation, Florence tells a sweet and memorable tale that isn't belabored with a lot of fluff or busywork. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Florence’s breezy, slice-of-life romance is a refreshing take on gaming," 15 Feb. 2018 As with all Marvel screen ventures, the story has a lot of moving parts, but in general the results don’t register as the same-old superhero busywork, the kind that makes for forgettable stories and strenuously overinflated running times. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe," 6 Feb. 2018 After some narrative busywork, John disappears and Setsuko — weighted down with a large suitcase and her comically, aggressively angry sister (Kaho Minami) — follows him to Southern California. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "Review: A Tragic Wig and the Search for Happiness in ‘Oh Lucy!’," 28 Feb. 2018 The bad Some interactive elements feel like mere busywork. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Florence’s breezy, slice-of-life romance is a refreshing take on gaming," 15 Feb. 2018 Soon, Astrobee will take some of the busywork of space life off their hands. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Meet Astrobee, the Adorable Robot Cube Bound for the ISS," 27 Mar. 2017 The Assistant’s long-term aim is to eliminate all this busywork. Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, "A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer," 28 Sep. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'busywork.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of busywork

1893, in the meaning defined above

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Dictionary Entries near busywork



busy oneself





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Time Traveler for busywork

The first known use of busywork was in 1893

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English Language Learners Definition of busywork

US : work that is given to you only to keep you busy

More from Merriam-Webster on busywork

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with busywork

Comments on busywork

What made you want to look up busywork? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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