list·​less ˈlist-ləs How to pronounce listless (audio)
: characterized by lack of interest, energy, or spirit
a listless melancholy attitude
listlessly adverb
listlessness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for listless

languid, languorous, lackadaisical, listless, spiritless mean lacking energy or enthusiasm.

languid refers to an unwillingness or inability to exert oneself due to fatigue or physical weakness.

was depressed and languid for weeks after surgery

languorous suggests a dreamy boredom and delicacy that avoids unnecessary activity.

languorous cats lying in the sun

lackadaisical implies a carefree indifference marked by half-hearted efforts.

lackadaisical college seniors pretending to study

listless suggests a lack of interest caused by physical weakness or dissatisfied boredom.

listless hospital patients
listless children flipping through picture books on a rainy day

spiritless refers to a lack of animation or vigor that gives one's actions and words life.

a spiritless recital of the poem

Examples of listless in a Sentence

He became listless, answered in monosyllables, gurgled, drank a great deal of whisky, and looked with hateful eyes at everyone. Isaiah Berlin, New York Times Book Review, 12 Apr. 1987
She looked up and saw everyone starting his work. She took out a piece of paper, feeling listless and bored as she did. Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy, 1964
His blue eyes had lost their colour; they had a listless droop; and his mouth, losing the fulness of youth, was weak and pale. W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage, 1915
Her pretty face was wan and listless, her hair uncurled—some locks hanging lankly down, and some carelessly twisted round her head. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, 1847
The heat made everyone tired and listless. The party was a listless affair. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The home winning streak, now at 27 games, lived on for at least another few days thanks to a second half that largely offset that earlier listless showing. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2023 However, Pittman threw a changeup into the normal routine after firing offensive coordinator Dan Enos last Monday in an effort to put a charge into a listless offense. Tom Murphy, Arkansas Online, 31 Oct. 2023 Thein recalls arriving at an office of listless employees—many playing foosball and lounging about, as there was no work to be done. WIRED, 27 Oct. 2023 Her lawsuit last week was a bureaucratically listless and perfunctory invocation of existing law and precedent against the online retailer, eliciting not a modicum of enthusiasm even from the usual antitrust cheerleaders in the media. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, 6 Oct. 2023 The Americans slipped through to the knockout round Tuesday despite a listless, uninspiring 0-0 draw against Portugal. Anne M. Peterson, Baltimore Sun, 1 Aug. 2023 Later that morning, a Times reporter and another photographer — Thy Bun from Oakland — spotted her in the shaded bosom of the oak looking listless and with eyes closed. Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2023 Julia was indiscriminate, credulous, moody, perverse; prone to breaking out in prolonged fits of giggles and tears; now riotous, now listless, as the humor had her. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 4 May 2023 Burrow missed practically all of camp with a calf injury, then completed just 14 of 31 passes for 82 yards in a listless 24-3 loss to the Browns. Ben Volin,, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English listles, from list entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of listless was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near listless

Cite this Entry

“Listless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


list·​less ˈlist-ləs How to pronounce listless (audio)
: too tired or too little interested to want to do things
listlessly adverb
listlessness noun

Middle English listles "having a lack of desire to act or move," from earlier list "desire, liking"

More from Merriam-Webster on listless

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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