\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər How to pronounce idler (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst How to pronounce idlest (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​əst \

Definition of idle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not occupied or employed: such as
a : having no employment : inactive idle workers
b : not turned to normal or appropriate use idle farmland
c : not scheduled to compete the team will be idle tomorrow
2 : lacking worth or basis : vain idle chatter idle pleasure
b : having no evident lawful means of support


idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ How to pronounce idling (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to run at low power and often disconnected usually so that power is not used for useful work the engine is idling
2a : to spend time in idleness
b : to move idly

transitive verb

1 : to pass in idleness
2 : to cause to idle
3 : to make idle workers idled by a strike

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Other Words from idle


idleness \ ˈī-​dᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce idleness (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for idle


vain, nugatory, otiose, idle, empty, hollow mean being without worth or significance. vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value. vain promises nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance. a monarch with nugatory powers otiose suggests that something serves no purpose and is either an encumbrance or a superfluity. a film without a single otiose scene idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect. idle speculations empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or soundness or genuineness. an empty attempt at reconciliation a hollow victory

inactive, idle, inert, passive, supine mean not engaged in work or activity. inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work. on inactive status as an astronaut inactive accounts idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements. workers were idle in the fields inert as applied to things implies powerlessness to move or to affect other things; as applied to persons it suggests an inherent or habitual indisposition to activity. inert ingredients in drugs an inert citizenry passive implies immobility or lack of normally expected response to an external force or influence and often suggests deliberate submissiveness or self-control. passive resistance supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence. a supine willingness to play the fool


idle, loaf, lounge, loll, laze mean to spend time doing nothing. idle may be used in reference to persons that move lazily or without purpose. idled the day away loaf suggests either resting or wandering about as though there were nothing to do. she does her work and then loafs the rest of the day lounge, though occasionally used as equal to idle or loaf, typically conveys an additional implication of resting or reclining against a support or of physical comfort and ease in relaxation. he lounged against the wall loll also carries an implication of a posture similar to that of lounge, but places greater stress upon an indolent or relaxed attitude. lolling on the couch laze usually implies the relaxation of a busy person enjoying a vacation or moments of leisure. lazed about between appointments

Examples of idle in a Sentence

Adjective There has been a lot of idle speculation about what might happen, but no one really knows. the idle days of summer Verb She left the engine idling for a few seconds before she turned it off. The cars idled in traffic. A group of boys idled in the doorway. The factory closed, idling several hundred workers. Thousands of workers have been idled by the bad economy. The factory has been idled by the strike.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Years earlier, Johnson had read about the DSR in the news and entered his donor number, mostly out of idle curiosity. Caitlin Harrington, Wired, "There's No Such Thing as Family Secrets in the Age of 23andMe," 30 July 2020 Although Turkey rejected the warnings, observers say that the international community should take seriously a threat that is far from idle. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "War in Libya? Why two US allies are on a collision course.," 10 July 2020 And this information takes all sorts of forms—not just your idle thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, but also your Spotify playlists, YouTube uploads, fitness data, and more. David Nield, Popular Science, "Your favorite apps might be sharing too much about you. Here’s how to make sure they don’t.," 24 June 2020 This refers to the garbage collection process migrating data from CMR cache to SMR zones occurring in long idle times between operations. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Western Digital adds “Red Plus” branding for non-SMR hard drives," 24 June 2020 Out the window, on the airfield, dozens of idle airplanes are crammed into every corner. Steve Rubenstein, SFChronicle.com, "On the bright side: Bay Area stories about coping with grief, weight loss and empty airports," 8 June 2020 If ducks are coming in or over, any idle chatter must cease. Anchorage Daily News, "Knowledge gained in a duck blind can turn a hunter into a springtime naturalist," 6 June 2020 The league had begun its 2020 season in February just as always, got shut down in early March and sat idle for three months before Gov. Greg Abbott gave youth sports the green light to begin reopening on May 31. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Pandemic puts an end to NASA Pony baseball season," 13 July 2020 As with airplanes, the first issue with maintaining an idle cruise ship is simply finding a place to park it. Fran Golden, Fortune, "The perfect storm: What do you do with cruise ships that cannot set sail?," 11 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Air quality alert in effect through holiday weekend across Greater Cincinnati," 3 July 2020 In addition, while our 14 manufacturing plants in North America were forced to idle operations, our employees wanted to do their part to help health care workers and our community partners across the nation. Dallas News, "Becoming better: Toyota’s collective response to social and racial justice during a pandemic," 8 July 2020 Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Air quality alert in effect through holiday weekend across Greater Cincinnati," 3 July 2020 Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Air quality alert in effect through holiday weekend across Greater Cincinnati," 3 July 2020 Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Erin Glynn, Cincinnati.com, "Air Quality Alert issued for Greater Cincinnati region Saturday," 19 June 2020 Since then, Republicans have insinuated without evidence that legislation to constrain carbon will idle factories and slow down the economy, just like Covid-19. Ari Natter, Bloomberg.com, "Clean Energy Executives Worry Democrats Have Abandoned Them," 14 June 2020 The coronavirus pandemic has only added fuel to the flames: Sharp decreases in gasoline demand amid lockdowns sent the oil industry into a tailspin and forced much of biofuels production to idle or significantly scale back capacity. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Iowa’s Joni Ernst is on the front lines of the latest biofuels fight," 11 June 2020 The stock market, which has rebounded strongly in recent days and which spiked Friday morning as Wall Street processed the good news, seems to be discussing a different planet entirely from the one where thousands of cars still idle in breadlines. Garrett M. Graff, Wired, "A Better Jobs Report Belies America's Breadlines," 5 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idle.' 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 idle


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1592, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for idle


Middle English idel, from Old English īdel; akin to Old High German ītal worthless

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Time Traveler for idle

Time Traveler

The first known use of idle was before the 12th century

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Statistics for idle

Last Updated

2 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idle. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for idle

How to pronounce idle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of idle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not working, active, or being used
: not having any real purpose or value
: not having much activity



English Language Learners Definition of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

of an engine or vehicle : to run without being connected for doing useful work
: to spend time doing nothing or nothing useful
US : to cause (someone or something) to stop working : to make (someone or something) idle
\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst \

Kids Definition of idle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not working or in use idle workers idle farmland
3 : not based on anything real or serious an idle threat

Other Words from idle

idleness \ ˈī-​dᵊl-​nəs \ noun
idly \ ˈīd-​lē \ adverb


idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ \

Kids Definition of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to spend time doing nothing I idled away the afternoon.
2 : to run without being connected for doing useful work The engine is idling.

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More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for idle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with idle

Spanish Central: Translation of idle

Nglish: Translation of idle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idle for Arabic Speakers

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