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

Just seven months after opening its new paper tape plant, the machines now stand idle, shutting down alongside the layoffs. NBC News, "Trump's trade war might close down America's last nail factory — but workers remain diehard Trump fans," 29 June 2018 Stephenson then sat idle for a few months before playing on two 10-day contracts with the Timberwolves. Rohan Nadkarni, SI.com, "The LeBron Vs. Lance Relationship Hasn't Changed At All," 25 Apr. 2018 Valets tend to park the most stylish, the rarest and the most exuberant cars out front because these four-wheeled luxury Veblen goods add a sense of panache even standing idle in front of a luxury hotel. Jon Alain Guzik, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Valets: How to Get Your Wheels Parked Right Up Front," 2 Mar. 2018 Rosehill’s cremation units run six days a week, standing idle only on Sundays. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "But Where Will We Put Uncle Larry?," 2 Mar. 2018 But the commission complains that a glut of drivers is depressing driver earnings and has proposed a minimum-wage equation that would require apps to compensate drivers more per trip when more drivers are idle. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Taxi Empire Strikes Back," 9 July 2018 The last available German submarine was pulled out of service for repairs, as all the other submarines in the fleet sit in drydock or sit idle due to lack of replacement parts. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Germany’s Typhoon problem: Only four fighters can be made combat ready," 15 May 2018 At the time, the island’s hospitals were struggling to function, shortages of diesel fuel were keeping supermarkets closed and generators idle, and the death rate on the island was soaring. Frances Robles, New York Times, "FEMA Was Sorely Unprepared for Puerto Rico Hurricane, Report Says," 12 July 2018 Ferdinand was an ineffectual monarch, ill-informed and idle, better known for his singing than his savvy. Matthew Guerrieri, BostonGlobe.com, "Mozart for an era of political machinations," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Helicopters buzzed overhead and a large fleet of ambulances idled nearby. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "The world shows its love to kids in a Thai cave. We need that same love for kids at the border | Will Bunch," 8 July 2018 Long Island City suffered from the Long Island Rail Road’s throbbing diesel locomotives idling in the train yard. New York Times, "Trading Chelsea Clatter for Greenpoint Calm," 5 July 2018 Expanding mass transit is seen as a key step toward solving Atlanta’s traffic problems and the air pollution from cars idling in rush-hour gridlock. Washington Post, "Transit plan may test changing vision of Atlanta’s suburbs," 2 May 2018 Mikula added that a roundabout would mean no more stopped cars idling and emitting fumes, another complaint of residents. Bob Sandrick, cleveland.com, "Strongsville considers building roundabout at Howe and Shurmer roads near SouthPark Mall," 10 Apr. 2018 But Angle thinks the change will mean more cars lining up on Lombard Street itself and having to idle even longer. Heather Knight, SFChronicle.com, "Car break-in crackdown bill made perfect sense. California lawmakers killed it," 15 June 2018 Travolta, 64, a Hollywood survivor, has been around long enough to know how vulnerable newspaper journalists are to idle flattery, especially about newspapers. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "John Travolta talks about 'Gotti' and whether Sandy is really dead in 'Grease'," 14 June 2018 Other cities have passed their own car idling laws, though those recent efforts appear to be motivated by environmental concerns. Nashelly Chavez, sacbee, "A Sacramento man was arrested after he left his car idling. That's a law? | The Sacramento Bee," 14 May 2018 Every Bostonian has seen a Duck Tour idling in downtown traffic while tourists snap photos of the city’s landmarks. Nicole Defeudis, BostonGlobe.com, "Boston Duck Tours named a top US travel experience," 4 July 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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Phrases Related to idle

idle rich

idle threat

idle/empty threat

Statistics for idle

Last Updated

4 Sep 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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