\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​ər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​əst \

Essential Meaning of idle

1 : not working, active, or being used idle workers [=workers who do not have jobs] The company's competitors have not been idle [=they have been active/busy] in recent months. See More ExamplesThe factory has been lying/sitting/standing idle [=has not been used] for the past year. the idle rich [=rich people who do not have to work]Hide
2 : not having any real purpose or value idle rumors/gossip There has been a lot of idle speculation about what might happen, but no one really knows. See More Examples(formal) It is idle [=useless, pointless] to want what you cannot have. She said she would leave him, but he knew it was an idle threat. [=he knew that she did not mean it]Hide
3 : not having much activity the idle days of summer

Full Definition of idle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not occupied or employed: such as
a : having no employment : inactive idle workers
b : not turned to normal or appropriate use idle farmland
c : not scheduled to compete the team will be idle tomorrow
2 : lacking worth or basis : vain idle chatter idle pleasure
3a : shiftless, lazy
b : having no evident lawful means of support


idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ How to pronounce idle (audio) , ˈī-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to run at low power and often disconnected usually so that power is not used for useful work the engine is idling
2a : to spend time in idleness
b : to move idly

transitive verb

1 : to pass in idleness
2 : to cause to idle
3 : to make idle workers idled by a strike

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Other Words from idle


idleness \ ˈī-​dᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce idle (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for idle


vain, nugatory, otiose, idle, empty, hollow mean being without worth or significance. vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value. vain promises nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance. a monarch with nugatory powers otiose suggests that something serves no purpose and is either an encumbrance or a superfluity. a film without a single otiose scene idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect. idle speculations empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or soundness or genuineness. an empty attempt at reconciliation a hollow victory

inactive, idle, inert, passive, supine mean not engaged in work or activity. inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work. on inactive status as an astronaut inactive accounts idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements. workers were idle in the fields 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 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 supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence. a supine willingness to play the fool


idle, loaf, lounge, loll, laze mean to spend time doing nothing. idle may be used in reference to persons that move lazily or without purpose. idled the day away loaf suggests either resting or wandering about as though there were nothing to do. she does her work and then loafs the rest of the day lounge, though occasionally used as equal to idle or loaf, typically conveys an additional implication of resting or reclining against a support or of physical comfort and ease in relaxation. he lounged against the wall loll also carries an implication of a posture similar to that of lounge, but places greater stress upon an indolent or relaxed attitude. lolling on the couch laze usually implies the relaxation of a busy person enjoying a vacation or moments of leisure. lazed about between appointments

Examples of idle in a Sentence

Adjective There has been a lot of idle speculation about what might happen, but no one really knows. the idle days of summer Verb She left the engine idling for a few seconds before she turned it off. The cars idled in traffic. A group of boys idled in the doorway. The factory closed, idling several hundred workers. Thousands of workers have been idled by the bad economy. The factory has been idled by the strike.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Michigan State remains undefeated but is idle this week. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 23 Oct. 2021 Edgewater is idle next week before completing its regular season at Orlando rival Boone. Buddy Collings,, 23 Oct. 2021 Last week: Homewood lost 49-14 to Mountain Brook and Briarwood was idle, but fell to Mountain Brook 14-0 the previous week. Dennis Victory, al, 19 Oct. 2021 Oregon State was idle this weekend and enjoyed a bye week. oregonlive, 18 Oct. 2021 Last week: Clay-Chalkville beat Mortimer Jordan 58-9 and Pinson Valley was idle, but beat Mortimer Jordan 40-24 the previous week. Dennis Victory, al, 12 Oct. 2021 Proponents of the mine haven't been idle, however, and some Democratic members of Arizona's Congressional delegation are feeling the heat. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, 10 Oct. 2021 Marshall is idle this week and will be back in action at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 against Harlan at Farris Stadium. David Dekunder, San Antonio Express-News, 10 Oct. 2021 About 370 wells are idle, while nearly 1,300 have been plugged. Kathleen Ronayne And Matthew Daly, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Even if the new Taliban rulers do not physically confine women to their homes, many express fear that they will be consigned to idle irrelevance. Washington Post, 7 Oct. 2021 But the middle and north sides of the island are rural in a way that is easily caricatured: populated with Trump flags and poor men in RealTree camo hats who idle their pickup trucks outside the gas stations and weed dispensaries. New York Times, 5 Oct. 2021 Taking on Lordstown One of Trump's biggest battles with GM centered on pressing the automaker in 2018 to change its plan to idle the Lordstown factory. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, 6 Aug. 2021 Volkswagen also may need to further cut its production, while Ford is expected to idle production for one week at a U.S. plant that manufacturers its popular F-150 trucks, on account of the shortage. Trefis Team, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 Players just chatting with each other in the game would idle above cities in their flying mounts instead of standing around in crowds by the auction house. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 20 Sep. 2021 General Motors announced more plant shutdowns, and a Bloomberg report said Tesla had to idle its plants in China for several days last month because of the chip shortage. Annie White, Car and Driver, 3 Sep. 2021 That has forced automakers and other chip users to idle production and prompted lawmakers to endorse federal subsidies to try to boost U.S. chip manufacturing. Washington Post, 7 July 2021 The chips are used in a variety of car parts and the shortage has forced all carmakers to idle plants, reduce shifts or partially build vehicles until more chips are available. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, 9 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of idle


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1592, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for idle


Middle English idel, from Old English īdel; akin to Old High German ītal worthless

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Time Traveler for idle

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

26 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Idle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for idle


\ ˈī-dᵊl How to pronounce idle (audio) \
idler\ ˈīd-​lər \; idlest\ ˈīd-​ləst \

Kids Definition of idle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not working or in use idle workers idle farmland
3 : not based on anything real or serious an idle threat

Other Words from idle

idleness \ ˈī-​dᵊl-​nəs \ noun
idly \ ˈīd-​lē \ adverb


idled; idling\ ˈīd-​liŋ \

Kids Definition of idle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to spend time doing nothing I idled away the afternoon.
2 : to run without being connected for doing useful work The engine is idling.

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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