wool·​gath·​er·​ing ˈwu̇l-ˌga-t͟h(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce woolgathering (audio)
: indulgence in idle daydreaming

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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. As you might imagine, woolgathering was not the most profitable of enterprises; its practitioners must have seemed to wander aimlessly, gaining little for their efforts. In the mid-16th century, woolgathering began to appear in figurative phrases such as "my wits went a woolgathering"—in other words, "my mind went wandering aimlessly." From there, it wasn't long before the word woolgathering came to suggest foolish or purposeless mind-wandering.

Examples of woolgathering in a Sentence

my woolgathering was abruptly interrupted by a question from the flight attendant
Recent Examples on the Web Today, woolgathering sounds harmless – one wanders contentedly among the hedgerows. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 July 2022 All this woolgathering about AGAD has inspired me to fire up the Idea Oven again for old time’s sake. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, 30 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'woolgathering.' 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

1553, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of woolgathering was in 1553


Dictionary Entries Near woolgathering

Cite this Entry

“Woolgathering.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woolgathering. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


wool·​gath·​er·​ing ˈwu̇l-ˌgat͟h-(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce woolgathering (audio)
: the act of daydreaming
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