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Synonym Chooser

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

Thesaurus Entries Near idle

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

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