\ 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 Poth, the No. 1 team in the Sub-5A rankings, was idle. David Hinojosa, ExpressNews.com, "Week 7 San Antonio-area high school football rankings," 5 Oct. 2020 Miami, despite being idle this week, moved up one spot in the AP Poll. David Furones, sun-sentinel.com, "Miami Hurricanes move up one spot to No. 7 in AP Poll," 4 Oct. 2020 Chelsea plays host to Huffman next week while the Colonels are idle before going to Huffman on Oct. 15. Al.com Reports, al, "Birmingham roundup: Pelham takes region command after downing Wetumpka 34-18," 3 Oct. 2020 Unbeaten Lakota West, who was idle last Friday due to a COVID-19 infection at Oak Hills, remains at No. 3 in Division I. Scott Springer, The Enquirer, "Southwest Ohio again with 11 Top 10 football teams in latest rankings," 29 Sep. 2020 Saturday was a good day for the Pac-12, which sat idle. John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: Pac-12 football schedule only contenders and conspiracists will love," 27 Sep. 2020 Automatic shut-off features power down the iron after a period of being idle. Sian Babish, chicagotribune.com, "The best flat iron of 2020," 25 Sep. 2020 Air travel from Europe and the United Kingdom has been idle since President Trump instituted a travel ban in March. Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY, "United Airlines to make COVID-19 rapid tests available to passengers, starting on Hawaii route," 24 Sep. 2020 Instead, players who have spent the last few months participating in open gym runs, working at the practice facility individually or being idle because of COVID-19 are trying to figure out this new normal. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Kevin Love shows leadership, commitment by joining Cleveland Cavaliers in bubble: Chris Fedor," 23 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Meanwhile, a second stimulus bill containing extended eviction protections for the rest of America continues to idle in Congress, and Trump has said that his administration won’t negotiate further on a new stimulus until after the election. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Melania Trump’s Charmed Pandemic Life," 6 Oct. 2020 Even when much of the oilfield was snuffed out by producers forced to idle rigs earlier this year, this corner of the state provided steady work. Rachel Adams-heard, Bloomberg.com, "The Crown Jewel of the Shale Patch Braces for a Biden Ban," 25 Sep. 2020 Power was then pulled to idle, and the thrust reversers were again applied as the airplane touched down for the third time, the NTSB said. Adrian Sainz, Star Tribune, "NTSB: Pilot's actions likely caused Earnhardt plane crash," 23 Sep. 2020 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

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

13 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idle. Accessed 24 Oct. 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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