idle

adjective
\ˈī-dᵊl \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər , ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst , 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

idle

verb
idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ , 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

Adjective

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

Verb

idler \ ˈīd-​lər , ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for idle

Adjective

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

Verb

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

Gomez said the copper would corrode if the pans were idle. Sylvie Corbet, Fox News, "Hidden underground world below French president put on view," 15 Sep. 2018 On other courses that remained open, the ground has been too sodden for carts, and the conditions have left employees idle. Jerome Campbell And Margeaux Sippell, BostonGlobe.com, "Hey — what happened to spring?," 20 Apr. 2018 But the Marlins aren’t expected to remain idle at the deadline. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "Which Marlins are more likely to be traded before the July 31 deadline?," 11 July 2018 For example, with the computer program Einstein@Home, anyone can use their computer’s idle time to help search for gravitational waves from colliding black holes. Eileen Meyer, Smithsonian, "Big Data is Transforming How Astronomers Make Discoveries," 15 May 2018 The Heat are idle Monday before a 4:30 p.m. Eastern game Tuesday against the Utah Jazz at the Thomas & Mack Center. Ira Winderman, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Heat's Derrick Jones Jr. sprains ankle in loss at summer league," 8 July 2018 All the fireworks and BBQs and (let’s be honest) idle binge-watching are still a few days away. Yang-yi Goh, GQ, "19 Killer Buys from the Best Fourth of July Sales," 29 June 2018 According to resident Bill Wetterau, the site sat idle and overgrown for five years after the project foreclosed. Henry Morgan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A new 700,000-square-foot Briggs & Stratton facility could be open by April 2019 in Germantown," 20 June 2018 Chinese importers seeking alternative sources of sorghum as risks of a trade spat with the U.S. linger are finding Nigeria, the world’s second-largest producer, unable to fill the gap as violence in producing regions leave fields idle. Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg.com, "Nigeria Conflict Stops Sorghum Farmers’ Bid to Benefit From Trump," 27 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Imagine a neighbor idling a Harley—tolerable in a rural environment but unacceptable in a tight city lot. David Agrell, Popular Mechanics, "Should You Buy a Standby Generator?," 11 Sep. 2018 Express toll lanes are intended to reduce exhaust from cars idling. Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times, "Can $3 billion in toll lanes, interchanges and bus rapid transit fix I-405 gridlock?," 9 Sep. 2018 Isabella was allowed inside to visit her daughter while her boyfriend and the others waited in Ms. Muñoz’s S.U.V. The vehicle idled with the air-conditioning blasting in the South Texas summer sun. New York Times, "‘It’s Like Each Day Is a Year’: A Migrant Mother’s Wait for a Reunion," 13 July 2018 My car is trapped in a line of vehicles idling behind a laundry truck on Prince Street. Kara Baskin, BostonGlobe.com, "How to eat like a local in the North End," 3 July 2018 But longer waits such as those in airport queues, and other idling exceeding five minutes, will not count. Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, "Uber mandates a six-hour rest period for frequent drivers," 12 Feb. 2018 Ford described a huge effort to restart production of the key components idled by the fire. Phoebe Wall Howard, USA TODAY, "Ford plans to resume production of critical F-150 pickup Friday," 16 May 2018 When idling, the turning of the 3,200-horsepower engine imparts a rhythmic, seat-of-your-pants rocking feel to the locomotive cab. Kevin Spear, OrlandoSentinel.com, "SunRail trains driven by women engineers for 1st time," 30 May 2018 Argonne researchers have been itching to get started on the project, but it has largely idled while the Office of Science budget stagnated. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Science at Department of Energy gets a hefty raise in final 2018 budget," 23 Mar. 2018

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

Adjective

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

Verb

1592, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for idle

Adjective

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

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Statistics for idle

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for idle

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

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More Definitions for idle

idle

adjective

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

idle

verb

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

: to cause (someone or something) to stop working : to make (someone or something) idle

idle

adjective
\ˈī-dᵊl \
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

idle

verb
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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Comments on idle

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