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 Then again, the repetitive deliveries can just as often feel like drudgery or even busywork. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Death Stranding is Kojima unleashed, and it’s as weird as you’d expect," 1 Nov. 2019 In my old job, talking myself into believing my team’s dubious pursuits were more than busywork created to justify our six-figure incomes? Mathina Calliope, Longreads, "The Backcountry Prescription Experiment," 3 Dec. 2019 Just as in Fallout, there are usually options for how to sidestep the needs of one group in favor of another, but those options generally involve aligning with an equally needy faction with its own laundry list of busywork. EW.com, "The Outer Worlds is a great RPG if you ignore its characters," 22 Oct. 2019 Ephraim is wary at first, then obedient, then angry; what does all this busywork serve, other than Thomas’s own ego? Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe dance macabre in masterful drama The Lighthouse," 17 Oct. 2019 All three try to indoctrinate newcomer Tim (Kyle Beltran) into their cheerful, mundane habits, as if busywork were the sum of the burden of recovery. Jesse Green, New York Times, "On Adjacent Stages, Two Haunted Houses, Circa 1882 and 2019," 12 Aug. 2019 Like homework, reading challenges can feel like pointless busywork for those who aren’t feeling intrinsically motivated to read. Constance Grady, Vox, "Reading Amelia Bedelia as a parable on domestic labor," 15 June 2019 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

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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Time Traveler for busywork

Time Traveler

The first known use of busywork was in 1893

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Statistics for busywork

Last Updated

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Busywork.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/busywork. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for busywork


How to pronounce busywork (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of busywork

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

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