ˈī-dᵊl-ē How to pronounce idly (audio)
: in an idle manner: such as
: without much thought, effort or attention
idly staring out the window
idly flipping from one channel to another
Harry … doodled idly on his parchment ignoring Hermione's frequent glares and nudges …J. K. Rowling
: in a lazy or inactive manner or state
sat with her hands resting idly in her lap
spent the day lying idly on the couch
Barber left London the next day, and for six months sat idly in Addis Ababa waiting for something to happen.Waverly Root
: without taking any action
"The time has come to speak," she said. "I cannot stand idly by [=do nothing] and see a young man going to perdition!"P. G. Wodehouse
… a party who has been wronged by a breach of contract may not unreasonably sit idly by and allow damages to accumulate.John D. Calamari and Joseph M. Perillo

Examples of idly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web These rivals, as well as Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, are not sitting idly by, with AWS going so far as to set up a team to answer queries from OpenAI customers, according to The Information. Phil Wahba, Fortune, 21 Nov. 2023 Professional historians keep fighting a rearguard action against those idly using the past to entertain themselves on their phones and televisions. Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2023 In this strategy, the pits' true purpose is to sit idly as a threat. Sarah Scoles, Scientific American, 14 Nov. 2023 After all, who among us hasn’t at one point or another idly pondered Nicolas Cage? Enjoy a year of unlimited access to The Atlantic—including every story on our site and app, subscriber newsletters, and more. David Sims, The Atlantic, 7 Nov. 2023 Titled The New Forest Buckhounds, the work portrays a pack of docile-looking hounds sitting idly during a hunt as their owners scan the surrounding forested area. Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Nov. 2023 Texas will not sit idly by while this crisis worsens. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, 19 Oct. 2023 In short order, Fiennes’ on-screen Dahl conjures the character of Henry Sugar, an idly wealthy 1930s bachelor — and a real-life person, we’re told, hiding under a false name — played by a customarily dapper Benedict Cumberbatch. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 28 Sep. 2023 No part here is wasted or idly played: Even irresistible tyke Selim is button-cute but never cutesy, a full life and mind evident in her firework movements and off-on-her-own-beam responses. Guy Lodge, Variety, 14 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'idly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of idly was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near idly

Cite this Entry

“Idly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on idly

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!