wool·​gath·​er·​ing | \ ˈwu̇l-ˌga-t͟h(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce woolgathering (audio) , -ˌge-t͟h(ə-)riŋ \

Definition of woolgathering

: indulgence in idle daydreaming

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for woolgathering


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Woolgathering once literally referred to the act of gathering loose tufts of wool that had gotten caught on bushes and fences as sheep passed by. Woolgatherers must have seemed to wander aimlessly, gaining little for their efforts, for in the mid-16th century "woolgathering" began to appear in figurative phrases such as "my wits (or my mind) went a-woolgathering" - in other words, "my mind went wandering aimlessly." From there, it wasn't long before the word woolgathering came to suggest the act of indulging in purposeless mind-wandering.

Examples of woolgathering in a Sentence

my woolgathering was abruptly interrupted by a question from the flight attendant

First Known Use of woolgathering

1553, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about woolgathering

Time Traveler for woolgathering

Time Traveler

The first known use of woolgathering was in 1553

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about woolgathering

Statistics for woolgathering

Cite this Entry

“Woolgathering.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woolgathering. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on woolgathering

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for woolgathering

Comments on woolgathering

What made you want to look up woolgathering? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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