\ 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


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


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


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


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


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

While the design stars, of course, did the heavy lifting, the Brady kids weren’t idle observers. Chuck Barney, The Mercury News, "‘A Very Brady Renovation’: A groovy kind of makeover show," 5 Sep. 2019 While there have been talks about another manufacturer moving in, the plant remains idle despite Trump’s promises to support workers in the Mahoning Valley. Robin Goist,, "Republicans host business roundtable in Canton as part of strategy to focus on economy in swing states," 26 Aug. 2019 While his name-dropping was legendary, this was not idle boasting. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, "George S. Mitrovich, the man who knew everyone, 1935—2019," 25 July 2019 Found on almost every country road in the valley, trulli are not idle curiosities; they are actively used as homes, farmsteads, guesthouses, and more. Margarita Gokun Silver, National Geographic, "Hobbit homes in Italy? Not quite, but just as charming," 10 July 2019 For the Jets, in addition to Sam Darnold (mono) and Bell, linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin) and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (ankle) was idle. Mary Kay Cabot,, "Odell Beckham Jr. stops watch talk, Browns Damarious Randall, Christian Kirksey dedicate games to Chris Smith," 12 Sep. 2019 That doesn’t mean Williams has been idle when not running routes. Brian Murphy,, "UCF receivers hope to propel Knights’ potent offense to new level," 8 Aug. 2019 The brand provides resources for harvesting Mezcal Unión’s agave on land that would have otherwise been idle. John Kell, Fortune, "Has Mezcal Become Too Big for Its Own Good?," 4 Aug. 2019 Atlantic’s game against Boca Raton was canceled, so the Eagles were idle for the second straight week. Gary Curreri,, "Palm Beach County’s high school football top 10 settles after three weeks — kind of (blame Dorian)," 10 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Morally and emotionally, they are built not to idle but to take an audience of kids and get them somewhere. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Does “The Lion King” Need C.G.I.?," 19 July 2019 Passengers were asleep when the boat began to idle and move slowly to shore. San Diego Union-Tribune, "15 passengers rescued after fishing boat washes ashore in Mission Beach," 28 June 2019 Here are some suggestions for air quality alert days: * Cut down on driving if possible; avoid idling* Use the bus or car pool * Put off mowing the lawn for a day * Gas up after 6 p.m. Leigh Morgan, al, "Code Orange air quality alert issued for Birmingham metro area on Monday," 15 Sep. 2019 The Argentine idled while in possession, blissfully unaware that Buendia was heading towards him, and had his pocket picked, gifting Norwich a third goal that Pukki was never going to miss. Matias Grez, CNN, "Norwich stuns defending Premier League champion Manchester City," 14 Sep. 2019 The aircraft freed up when those flights stop operating will be used on domestic flights and help fill in for the airline’s idled Boeing 737 Max jets, said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin. Lauren Zumbach,, "United suspends flights between Chicago and Hong Kong," 26 Aug. 2019 This was part of an effort to close Paradise Mine in Central City, which had been idled for a couple of months, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky coal mine explosion knocks worker down 380-foot shaft," 2 Aug. 2019 More cars stuck idling, very bad for air quality for nearby residents. Gary Richards, The Mercury News, "Roadshow live chat, July 24 at noon," 24 July 2019 As for getting caught, well, nothing would have been simpler; a white Border Patrol vehicle was idling right up the hill! Colin Barrett, Harper's magazine, "“Just Keep Going North”," 5 July 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


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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Statistics for idle

Last Updated

16 Oct 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



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

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

Comments on idle

What made you want to look up idle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to fake an opponent out of position

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