idle

adjective
\ 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
3a : shiftless, lazy
b : having no evident lawful means of support

idle

verb
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

Adjective

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

Verb

idler \ ˈīd-​lər How to pronounce idler (audio) , 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

Atlantic’s game against Boca Raton was canceled, so the Eagles were idle for the second straight week. Gary Curreri, sun-sentinel.com, "Palm Beach County’s high school football top 10 settles after three weeks — kind of (blame Dorian)," 10 Sep. 2019 As factories stood idle, banks pulsed with activity, all fueled by the influx of foreign capital. Stephen Mihmbloomberg, Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Switzerland pioneered negative rates in the 1970s. It got very ugly," 22 Aug. 2019 Factories and bakeries stand idle while the sun shines. The Economist, "Zimbabwe’s economy is crashing and its people are hungry," 15 Aug. 2019 An old school bus travels to immigrant shelters in Tijuana helping educate children who sit idle for hours with their parents at the border seeking asylum. San Diego Union-Tribune, "A small bus is helping educate three immigrant shelters in Tijuana," 4 Aug. 2019 But many parents, watching their children sit idle for two months, are furious. Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, "In Ghana, Free High School Brings Opportunity and Grumbling," 15 June 2019 That concrete-and-glass landmark, idle for more than 15 years after the demise of TWA in 2001, reopened in May as the TWA Hotel with 512 guest rooms, eight bars and six restaurants. Christopher Reynolds, latimes.com, "Is LAX's Theme Building coming back to life as part of an on-airport hotel?," 12 June 2019 Nearly three weeks later, the coal train sits idle, back at the mine. Campbell Robertson, New York Times, "Unpaid Miners Blocked a Coal Train in Protest. Weeks Later, They’re Still There.," 19 Aug. 2019 The Palace of Auburn Hills, meanwhile, sits idle and almost empty, too. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "As The Joe and Palace fall, I'm reminded of the greatness that stood inside," 14 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Officers found a car idling around 1:30 a.m. in the 1900 block of Rochelle Avenue. Lynh Bui, Washington Post, "Man charged in fatal shooting of two men found in a car in Maryland," 16 Sep. 2019 Each time one of these plants idles production, farmers for hundreds of miles in all directions are affected. Tim Walz, Twin Cities, "Tim Walz: Exempting refineries from biofuel requirements is a kick in the gut to farmers," 6 Sep. 2019 Ice on the Caspian can halt shipments of equipment, idling thousands of workers. Stanley Reed, New York Times, "A Windswept Plain, a Sea of Oil and a Mountain of Money," 30 Aug. 2019 The lawsuit represents the second time in the past decade or so that idling school buses in Boston have attracted legal action. James Vaznis, BostonGlobe.com, "Environmental group sues to force Boston school buses to quit idling," 12 July 2019 Over 12 months, idling the two furnaces would reduce production by about 2.5 million tons, or about 15% of the company’s total steelmaking capacity, according to analysts. Bob Tita, WSJ, "U.S. Steel to Idle Two Furnaces as Demand Falls," 18 June 2019 Responsive traffic lights have reduced vehicle transit time along the route by an average of 36 seconds, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the time cars idle at red lights. National Geographic, "How pigeons landed in cities, and more breakthroughs," 12 June 2019 In Chicago almost half of the licensed cabs are in foreclosure or idled, the Chicago Tribune reported last year. Carolyn Said, SFChronicle.com, "‘We cannot make a living’: SF cabdrivers’ debts mount amid Uber, Lyft battle," 23 Aug. 2019 The aircraft have been idled since March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Dallas News, "Southwest Airlines CEO on 737 Max: 'There's no better 175-seat airplane'," 2 Aug. 2019

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

18 Sep 2019

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

idle

adjective
\ 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

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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More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with idle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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