\ 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 Instead, the ships serve as quarantine quarters for crews made idle by the collapse of the cruise market thanks to covid-19. The Economist, "Floating confinement Why the Philippines is a magnet for idled cruise ships," 23 May 2020 Even its idle penetrates the air with a fast succession of whacks, and bystanders in the vicinity feel like they’re being hit in the chest with the flat end of a shovel at engine speed. Motorcyclist Staff, Popular Science, "The five sexiest-sounding motorcycles," 22 May 2020 No matter the method, you’ll be inspired by these famous faces making the most of all this idle time by working up a sweat. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "No Gym? No Problem: These Celebs Are Crushing Their Workout Goals In Quarantine," 21 May 2020 When hospitals this month restarted elective surgeries after weeks of being stopped, PartsSource helped them get idle equipment running. cleveland, "Aurora’s PartsSource keeps critical hospital equipment running during coronavirus crisis," 18 May 2020 Beaches in Los Angeles County will reopen on Wednesday for exercise and swimming, but idle activities like sunbathing will not be allowed. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, "Los Angeles Beaches Are Reopening — What to Know (Video)," 12 May 2020 The New York Times warned rats may be lingering in idle car engines. Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Amazon wasn't prepared for the coronavirus. Now it's facing major costs.," 30 Apr. 2020 Such schemes are also being adapted on a much smaller scale in the US, where more than 90% (paywall) of the country’s 125,0000 restaurant workers were idle by late March, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing labor union UNITE HERE. Jane Li, Quartz, "Employee-sharing schemes are softening the blow for China’s pandemic-hit businesses," 23 Apr. 2020 The interruption While kids are idle at home, their parents are not on holiday. Sangeeta Tanwar, Quartz India, "How urban Indian parents are dealing with the coronavirus lockdown," 31 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Likewise, statewide prohibitions on elective surgeries have, perversely, emptied hospital beds and idled medical workers in places that have had no COVID-19 surge. The Editors, National Review, "The Next Phase," 29 Apr. 2020 Income taxes were expected to raise nearly $445 million, but with people idled from work, those collections could be down dramatically. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Will coronavirus impact force Cleveland to chop budget, workers? Mayor Frank Jackson awaiting clearer picture," 16 Apr. 2020 The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which reached an all-time high of 29,551 on Feb. 12 before idling through the rest of the month, has fallen sharply as worries over the mystery illness mount. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "‘Great financial crisis’: European Central Bank president warns of market collapse mirroring 2008," 11 Mar. 2020 Geoff Cooper, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said just 60 ethanol plants are operating near full capacity, while 71 plants have sharply cut output and 73 are idled completely. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: Texas steers clear of mandated production cuts, for now," 21 Apr. 2020 Asian shares followed Wall Street lower on Tuesday after US oil futures plunged below zero because of a worldwide glut as factories, automobiles, and airplanes sit idled. Chris Blakeand Colleen Long, BostonGlobe.com, "WHO warns rush to ease virus rules could cause resurgence," 21 Apr. 2020 Maybe the cord-cutting era has largely done away with the act of channel surfing, but many of us rack up an equally large amount of idling time these days. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "Straight to (CO)Video: We’re finally getting around to watching these things," 19 Apr. 2020 Container vessel operators in recent weeks have canceled hundreds of sailings affecting schedules into the summer and have idled a record 13% of their capacity to conserve cash as demand has waned, according to maritime data provider Alphaliner. Costas Paris, WSJ, "Virginia Closes Port Terminal as Volumes Dive From Coronavirus Impact," 17 Apr. 2020 The main library downtown and other branches also were shuttered last month, idling dozens of employees who handle operations and other in-person services for residents. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville budget crunch means 380 city employees will be furloughed, Mayor Fischer says," 17 Apr. 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

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idle. Accessed 28 May. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for idle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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