1

idle

play
adjective \ ˈī-dᵊl \

Definition of idle

idler play \ˈīd-lər, ˈī-dᵊl-ər\; idlest play \ˈīd-ləst, ˈī-dᵊl-əst\
1 :lacking worth or basis :vain
  • idle chatter
  • idle pleasure
2 :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
3 a :shiftless, lazy
b :having no evident lawful means of support

idleness

play \ˈī-dᵊl-nəs\ noun

idly

play \ˈīd-lē, ˈī-dᵊl-ē\ adverb

Examples of idle in a Sentence

  1. There has been a lot of idle speculation about what might happen, but no one really knows.

  2. the idle days of summer

Recent Examples of idle from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of idle

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

2

idle

verb

Definition of idle

idled; idling play \ˈīd-liŋ, ˈī-dᵊl-iŋ\
intransitive verb
1 a :to spend time in idleness
b :to move idly
2 :to run at low power and often disconnected usually so that power is not used for useful work
  • the engine is idling
transitive verb
1 :to pass in idleness
2 :to make idle
  • workers idled by a strike
3 :to cause to idle

idler

play \ˈīd-lər, ˈī-dᵊl-ər\ noun

Examples of idle in a Sentence

  1. She left the engine idling for a few seconds before she turned it off.

  2. The cars idled in traffic.

  3. A group of boys idled in the doorway.

  4. The factory closed, idling several hundred workers.

  5. Thousands of workers have been idled by the bad economy.

  6. The factory has been idled by the strike.

Recent Examples of idle from the Web

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

1592

idle Synonyms

Synonyms
bum, chill, dally, dawdle, dillydally, drone, footle, goof (off), hack (around), hang (around or out), hang about [British], kick around, kick back, laze, lazy, loaf, loll, lounge, veg out, kill time, twiddle one's thumbs
Related Words
fiddle (around), fool, mess, monkey, muck, piddle, play, potter (around), putter (around), trifle; doze, estivate (also aestivate), hibernate; lag, linger, loiter, poke, relax, rest, tarry; amble, mosey, saunter, stroll, swan; furlough, goldbrick, malinger, truant
Near Antonyms
drudge, grind, grub, hump, hustle, labor, moil, peg, plod, plow, plug, slave, sweat, toil, travail, work; apply, buckle (down); exert, put out

Synonym Discussion of idle

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


IDLE Defined for English Language Learners

idle

play
adjective

Definition of idle for English Language Learners

  • : not working, active, or being used

  • : not having any real purpose or value

  • : not having much activity


idle

verb

Definition of idle for English Language Learners

  • 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 Defined for Kids

1

idle

play
adjective \ ˈī-dᵊl \

Definition of idle for Students

idler \ˈīd-lər\; idlest \ˈīd-ləst\
1 :not working or in use
  • idle workers
  • idle farmland
2 :lazy 1
3 :not based on anything real or serious
  • an idle threat

idleness

\ˈī-dᵊl-nəs\ noun

idly

\ˈīd-lē\ adverb

2

idle

verb

Definition of idle for Students

idled; idling \ˈīd-liŋ\
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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