\ 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
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

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 Herro, appearing Monday on 790-The Ticket, said the big talk wasn’t idle chatter, nor Calipari’s word choice. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Heat’s Tyler Herro apparently more than just thinking big in NBA playoffs," 14 Sep. 2020 Closer to campus, where Ivy Road dead-ends into a cul-de-sac, three Saint Joseph County police cars idle. Tom Noie, The Indianapolis Star, "Noie: Notre Dame Stadium is open again, but it's quiet all around. Too quiet.," 13 Sep. 2020 Additionally, the district didn’t have many infrastructure issues with campuses, many of which had sat idle for several months. Corbett Smith, Dallas News, "Glitches, busy signals punctuated the first day of virtual school for Dallas ISD," 8 Sep. 2020 Backed by a coalition of businesses related to tourism—hotels, convention and visitor bureaus, airlines—the initiative’s goal is to encourage Americans to turn idle wanderlust into actual itineraries. National Geographic, "Why travel should be considered an essential human activity," 8 Sep. 2020 In a normal economic cycle, such idle capital eventually would be replaced by new assets that generate similar or even greater output. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus pandemic likely to leave legacy of fear and uncertainty that holds back economy for decades," 4 Sep. 2020 Weil believed that humans are not cut out for lives of idle pleasure. Richard Gunderman, The Conversation, "Labor Day celebrates earning a living, but remember what work really means," 4 Sep. 2020 The mixed workload, available in the fine print of Intel's Evo landing page, looks pretty similar to PCMark 10's Modern Office battery test, which includes Web browsing, video conferencing, office applications, and idle periods. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Three new Tiger Lake-powered laptop models are coming from Acer," 2 Sep. 2020 Some have outlived their usefulness and sit idle, a relic of the past. Jeremy Bradley, CBS News, "Preserving history during a pandemic," 19 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Some potential bidders, such as Oil Search Ltd., have recently pared operations as low crude prices and an epic downturn in fuel demand from the coronavirus spur companies to idle drilling rigs, shed staff and curtail new spending across the U.S. Dallas News, "Trump authorizes Arctic drilling rights sale by the end of 2020," 17 Aug. 2020 That’s four defensive starters idle, and cornerback Denzel Ward was limited. cleveland, "What happened at Browns training camp on August 19th: Baker Mayfield throws to backup WRs, Mack Wilson getting a 2nd opinion, more," 19 Aug. 2020 Marathon acknowledged job losses from its decision to idle two refineries, which includes a commitment to evaluate converting one of them, in California, to produce renewable diesel. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "US fuel-makers could face 'irreparable' damage from demand collapse and the move to green policy," 13 Aug. 2020 Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Air quality alert in effect for Saturday across the Tristate," 7 Aug. 2020 Cars idle in the middle of Snider Plaza, a shopping center that seems to be asleep in broad daylight, save for families fiending for fried chicken. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "Comfort during COVID: Bubba’s fried chicken restaurant is the hottest drive-thru in Dallas right now," 6 Aug. 2020 Marathon leaders do not expect any supply disruptions as a result of their decision to idle the facility indefinitely, the company statement said. J.d. Morris, SFChronicle.com, "Marathon Petroleum will ‘indefinitely idle’ Martinez refinery," 1 Aug. 2020 The Italian-American automaker lost just over $1.2 billion, (1.05 billion euros) but still made $46.2 million before taxes in North America, where it was forced to idle plants for about seven weeks. Tom Krisher, Star Tribune, "Fiat Chrysler muscles through, green shoots in North America," 31 July 2020 Do not idle your vehicle; exhaust contributes considerably to ozone formation. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Air quality alert in effect through holiday weekend across Greater Cincinnati," 3 July 2020

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

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idle. Accessed 29 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for idle

How to pronounce idle (audio)

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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