Synonyms & Antonyms of idle

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 not being in a state of use, activity, or employment
  • the car was idle for two weeks while they went on vacation
  • the company's competitors have not been idle in developing rival products

Synonyms for idle

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Antonyms for idle

2 not easily aroused to action or work
  • an idle employee who always seems to be either on break or at lunch

Synonyms for idle

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Antonyms for idle



Synonyms & Antonyms of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

to spend time doing nothing
  • she likes to idle during the summer and recharge herself for the fall semester
  • we idled away the evening relaxing around the campfire

Synonyms for idle

Words Related to idle

Phrases Synonymous with idle

Near Antonyms for idle

See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About idle

How is the word idle different from other adjectives like it?

Some common synonyms of idle are inactive, inert, passive, and supine. While all these words mean "not engaged in work or activity," idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements.

workers were idle in the fields

When is inactive a more appropriate choice than idle?

The meanings of inactive and idle largely overlap; however, inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work.

on inactive status as an astronaut

inactive accounts

When could inert be used to replace idle?

The words inert and idle are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, 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

When can passive be used instead of idle?

The words passive and idle can be used in similar contexts, but 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

When might supine be a better fit than idle?

While in some cases nearly identical to idle, supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence.

a supine willingness to play the fool

Learn More About idle

Time Traveler for idle

Time Traveler

The first known use of idle was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on idle

Nglish: Translation of idle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idle for Arabic Speakers


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