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

Two of Acacia’s three gold mines in Tanzania, all of which historically accounted for about 10% of Barrick’s total production, remain idle. Jacquie Mcnish, WSJ, "Goldman Banker Takes On World’s Largest Gold Miner—and Gets Pushback," 6 Aug. 2018 Many Eastern Shore crab houses hoping for a lucky break from the federal government are instead now expecting to remain mostly idle through the summer, without laborers to do the painstaking work needed to produce tubs of jumbo lump meat. Scott Dance, baltimoresun.com, "Many Maryland crab houses expect to go without immigrant workers this summer after again losing visa lottery," 18 June 2018 For more than 20 years, a vast section of the Northridge Fashion Center has remained idle after one of its anchor stores departed the mall. Shelby Grad, latimes.com, "Essential California: How Garcetti picked his police chief," 11 June 2018 Dozens of ships that transport oil pumped from Venezuela sat idle Monday docked in the country's ports, according to an online vessel-tracking website. Scott Smith, Houston Chronicle, "ConocoPhillips seeks control of Venezula oil assets to settle $2b award," 7 May 2018 But Ahmed says laborers have sat idle for the past week watching their wares spoil as the Khar Lachi border point has remained shut since Sunday. Javed Hussain, The Seattle Times, "Pakistan: Traders call for reopening of Afghan border," 21 Apr. 2018 Cherry pickers set up to give photographers an aerial shot sat idle. Amy Chozick, New York Times, "‘They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President’," 20 Apr. 2018 In Parrish, Alabama, population 982, the sludge-hauling train cars have sat idle near the little league ball fields for more than two months, Mayor Heather Hall said. Jeff Martin And Jay Reeves, miamiherald, "A stranded trainload of very stinky NYC poop makes it hard to breathe in an Ala. town | Miami Herald," 18 Apr. 2018 On Wednesday, cement trucks stood idle at the foot of unfinished high-rises; a string of hardware and paint stores were empty. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "Building Boom Unravels, Deepening Turkey’s Economic Crisis," 11 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Step 4: Start the working car and run it at idling speed for a few minutes. Jasmin Radoncic, Good Housekeeping, "How to Use Jumper Cables and Jump Start a Car the Right Way," 5 Dec. 2018 In Lordstown, Ohio, where GM is idling production, there’s a low concentration of automotive jobs outside those tied to the plant. Eric Morath, WSJ, "GM Closings a Fresh Sign of Worry for Economy," 26 Nov. 2018 Individuals can reduce their contributions by turning off their vehicle's engine rather than idling. Kate Talerico, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville had worst air quality in country last weekend," 21 June 2018 The Brazilian Association of Meat Industry Exporters said dozens of meatpacking plants were idling because of the strike, and 1,200 containers carrying beef for export were not being loaded on ships each day. Washington Post, "Truckers’ strike leads to fuel shortages in Brazil," 24 May 2018 There would have to be some amount of gas savings while your vehicle is not idling. Jerry Reynolds, Houston Chronicle, "Car Pro: Get the scoop on start/stop systems," 16 Mar. 2018 Key components of the plan: idling five assembly plants, including one in Canada, two in Ohio, one in Michigan, and one in Maryland, and reducing its salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 percent, including 25 percent fewer executives. Emily Stewart, Vox, "GM is closing plants and cutting jobs. Here’s what it means for workers — and for Trump.," 26 Nov. 2018 This setup saves gas by lessening the time spent idling. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "Ram 1500 eTorque: Why the Electrified Pickup Truck Is Even Better," 19 Sep. 2018 Acute shortages of parts have also left only 39 of the Luftwaffe's 128 Eurofighter jets combat-ready — idled along with nearly half of the armed forces' 224 Leopard tanks and five of its six submarines. Erik Kirschbaum, latimes.com, "Broken fighter jets, grounded helicopters and idled tanks: Germany's military is ailing," 18 May 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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Statistics for idle

Last Updated

9 Jan 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

: 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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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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