\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈīd-​lər \; idlest\ ˈī-​dᵊl-​əst How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈīd-​ləst \

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\ ˈī-​dᵊl-​iŋ How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈīd-​liŋ \

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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Last week: McAdory was idle last week while Northridge beat American Christian 42-28. Dennis Victory, al, 27 Sep. 2022 Finally, keyboard backlighting, which automatically turns off after a couple of seconds when the keyboard and touchpad are idle, seemed like an afterthought. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 17 Sep. 2022 Athens is 0-2 in Class 6A, Region 7 and will be idle next week before a stretch of region games against Cullman, Hartselle and Columbia. R. Sirvell Carter, al, 15 Sep. 2022 To his credit, Field hasn’t exactly been idle since 2006. Manori Ravindran, Variety, 1 Sep. 2022 Aspen Pharmacare’s vaccine production line in South Africa has been idle for months. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, 1 Sep. 2022 Commercial fishing vessels sat idle, obeying official regulations to restore depleted fisheries. Walter Nicklin, Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2022 Supply chain leaders need to measure the costs of both incremental capacity and idle capacity to understand their elastic capacity range. Dorothy Li, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 The industry has idle capacity of 225,000 metric tons a year that can still be used, the ministry added. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 5 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Ship owners, worried about the possibility of missile strikes, are choosing to idle vessels and burn extra fuel until the drills pass. Cindy Wang,, 7 Aug. 2022 Do not idle your vehicle, as exhaust contributes to ozone formation. Emily Deletter, The Enquirer, 11 July 2022 Ford plans to idle a plant near Kansas City, Mo. that makes its highly profitable F-150 pickup truck. Garth Friesen, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 In her Senate remarks, Raimondo also pointed to recent reports that two Russian tank manufacturers have had to idle production due to a lack of components. Jeanne Whalen, Washington Post, 11 May 2022 Tour buses idle outside the compound's black metal fence where visitors from around the country disembark to see Magnolia in person. Brianna Griff, Chron, 8 Aug. 2022 But Welter and some workers at the plant worry if the protest continues, GM may have to idle some production at Flint. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, 10 Feb. 2022 The real truth is, Jeff’s quest for creating a better society detaches him from an everyday, idle one. Liza Lentini, SPIN, 16 June 2022 The company has told drivers not to idle when possible, but turning trucks on and off also uses more fuel. Sean Mcdonnell, cleveland, 14 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

2 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Nglish: Translation of idle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idle for Arabic Speakers


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