\ 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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The halt to barrier construction is still costing the government $6 million per day as contractors are paid for cost of ownership and rental expenses while their projects sit idle, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security official. Michael Lee, Washington Examiner, "GAO investigating whether Biden administration illegally froze funding for border wall," 24 Mar. 2021 Doses are not being discarded unused, Leguen said but volunteers, employees and Nevada National Guard members sometimes sit idle. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "COVID-19 scams, Big Easy buzz, nurses protest: News from around our 50 states," 12 Mar. 2021 With people commuting and traveling less during the pandemic, cars may sit idle for days. Nora Mishanec, San Francisco Chronicle, "Catalytic converter thefts are surging across the Bay Area. The thieves rarely get caught," 25 Feb. 2021 But the more opportunities people have to be idle, the better off everyone is. Ingrid Nelson, The Conversation, "‘Doing nothing’ is all the rage – is it a form of resistance, or just an indulgence for the lucky few?," 19 Mar. 2021 The Bulldogs have been idle since losing to Loyola Chicago in the title game of the Missouri Valley Tournament, but there have been enough struggles elsewhere on the bubble that Drake can still hold out plenty of hope for an at-large bid. Noah Trister, Star Tribune, "Bubble watch: Boise St loses again; Syracuse, MSU also fall," 12 Mar. 2021 The narrator praises paying attention and being idle. Eoin O'carroll, The Christian Science Monitor, "Want to manipulate the flow of time? Pay attention.," 8 Mar. 2021 With the loss, OSU is idle until March 15 when the Beavers learn their NCAA tournament fate. oregonlive, "Stanford, Cameron Brink too much for Oregon State as Cardinal rolls 79-45 in Pac-12 tournament semifinals," 6 Mar. 2021 The Cards have been idle for a week due to Wednesday's cancellation at Virginia Tech, the result of contact tracing in the Hokies' program. Shannon Russell, The Courier-Journal, "Senior salute, high-stakes ACC clash on tap for Louisville men's basketball vs. Virginia," 6 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb At the edge of the wildfire-prone Los Padres National Forest northwest of Los Angeles, an oil company failed to maintain emergency roads to idle well sites. Janet Wilson, ProPublica, "Are California Oil Companies Complying With the Law? Even Regulators Often Don’t Know.," 22 Mar. 2021 Samsung, one of the world’s largest chip makers, was forced to idle two chip factories in Austin, Texas, last month. Sean Mclain, WSJ, "Everywhere You Look, the Global Supply Chain Is a Mess," 18 Mar. 2021 The industry was forced to idle hundreds of rigs and throttle many wells shut, some for good. New York Times, "Why $4-a-Gallon Gas May Be Coming Your Way This Summer," 11 Mar. 2021 General Motors will keep three of its assembly plants shuttered until at least mid-April and will idle a fourth due to a severe shortage of semiconductor chips used in various vehicle parts. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "GM extends production shutdown into April due to semiconductor chip shortage," 3 Mar. 2021 Schools were shutting down, forcing children to idle their time away within the confines of their homes. Alia Wong, USA TODAY, "Toys in quarantine, paper test kits: COVID has changed the way children play. Here's how.," 5 Mar. 2021 The shutdowns add to troubles for Ford, G.M. and other automakers that have separately had to idle plants because of a global semiconductor shortage. New York Times, "Winter Storm Disrupts Wide Swath of American Business," 16 Feb. 2021 The issue has taken on new urgency with a global chip shortage that’s forced some U.S. carmakers to idle plants and that threatens to spread to the electronics industry. oregonlive, "Biden, Schumer rush to confront chip shortage idling auto plants," 23 Feb. 2021 General Motors, Toyota and Ford were forced Tuesday to idle production at U.S. plants in the center of the country as a crippling winter weather pattern caused power outages and other disruptions. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "GM, Toyota call off more production shifts as freezing temperatures cause disruptions," 16 Feb. 2021

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


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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for idle

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for idle



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



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


\ 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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for idle

Nglish: Translation of idle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idle for Arabic Speakers

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