foo·​tle ˈfü-tᵊl How to pronounce footle (audio)
footled; footling ˈfü-tᵊl-iŋ How to pronounce footle (audio)

intransitive verb

: to talk or act foolishly
: to waste time : trifle, fool
footle noun
ˈfü-tᵊl-ər How to pronounce footle (audio)

Did you know?

Footle will be more familiar to speakers of British English than it is to speakers of American English. Its likely source is the seldom-used footer, meaning "to waste time." That word is etymologically connected with fouter (also spelled foutra), a word referring to something of little value or someone worthless or bungling. But the link between footle and footer is speculative. What we can say with confidence is that footle is a verb of 19th century origin that—along with the derivative adjective footling (as in "a footling amateur")—is still apt when discussing foolish or trifling people or things.

Examples of footle in a Sentence

spent the morning footling about while others were working
Recent Examples on the Web Get our daily newsletter Yet Mr Schwarzman avoids footling with life’s foot-soldiers for a reason. The Economist, 19 Sep. 2019 Last year an American startup called Swarm Technologies paid a footling $900,000 fine for sending four tiny satellites into orbit on an Indian rocket, having been denied permission to do so by the US Federal Communications Commission. The Economist, 17 July 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'footle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably alteration of footer to waste time

First Known Use

1891, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of footle was in 1891


Dictionary Entries Near footle

Cite this Entry

“Footle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!