\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst How to pronounce idle (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
3a : shiftless, lazy
b : having no evident lawful means of support


idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ How to pronounce idle (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

Other Words from idle


idleness \ ˈī-​dᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce idle (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The block was quiet Monday morning, with a squad car sitting idle outside the home and neighbors shoveling sidewalks after an overnight snowfall. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 Jan. 2022 That’s what paying banks more to leave their financial resources sitting idle will do. Judy Shelton, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2021 The Buckeyes held at No. 7 in the AP Top 25 poll after sitting idle on championship weekend for the first time since 2015. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 5 Dec. 2021 Fossil fuel companies, some of which have gone out of business, have left about 35,000 oil and gas wells sitting idle. Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times, 1 Nov. 2021 At the restaurant where the civic leaders gathered in a performance area — sound equipment and drums sitting idle on a nearby stage — the air was close, even with a rainy-season breeze managing to find its way inside. New York Times, 13 July 2021 Using pockets of overgrown land under power lines or slivers sitting idle by the river, community gardeners are busy digging, hoeing, and weeding in a city that is better known for its glitzy shopping malls and testing traffic jams. Beh Lih Yi, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 June 2021 With the Los Angeles Rams finally set to get on the clock Friday after sitting idle on Day 1 of the NFL draft, Les Snead doubled his dose of Advil and went on about his business of picking players and maneuvering on the draft board. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 1 May 2021 With so many tanker trucks sitting idle, experts warn that the situation could get worse as summer sets in and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosens travel guidelines as more Americans get vaccinated. Paul A. Eisenstein, NBC News, 28 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Next year, the Bay Area Toll Authority, which operates the seven toll bridges owned by Caltrans, plans to start ripping out tollbooths and narrowing the multi-lane plazas where cars idle, waiting to pay tolls. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Apr. 2022 Protesters objecting to Covid safety measures continue to idle trucks and camp out in downtown Ottawa, though blockades at the Canadian-U.S. border are standing down. Marc Bona, cleveland, 19 Feb. 2022 The chip drought has led to widespread disruptions, including forcing car makers lacking chips to idle plants and driving up prices for some electronic goods. Meghan Bobrowsky, WSJ, 26 Jan. 2022 LeTourneau expects the plant will idle for about an hour, losing production of about 70 new trucks, but better than having to cancel a whole shift or shut down the plant. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, 10 Feb. 2022 New car sales have been damped by a severe shortage of computer chips that forced automakers to idle plants even though demand for cars has been incredibly robust. New York Times, 4 Jan. 2022 Although in our scenario the Sonata could theoretically idle nearly seven more hours than the Model 3, which vehicle might fare better in the real world will be largely dependent on which vehicle started out with more energy in its tank. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, 21 Jan. 2022 Staffing shortfalls forced Alta to idle the Wildcat lift for a day and close a restaurant for a few more. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Dec. 2021 Congestion at ports in California continues to cause supply chain delays as ships idle offshore waiting to unload their cargo and containers linger too long at the docks waiting to be transported by truck or rail. NBC News, 23 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Nglish: Translation of idle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idle for Arabic Speakers


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