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[biz-ee] /ˈbɪz i/
adjective, busier, busiest.
actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime:
busy with her work.
not at leisure; otherwise engaged:
He couldn't see any visitors because he was busy.
full of or characterized by activity:
a busy life.
(of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.
officious; meddlesome; prying.
ornate, disparate, or clashing in design or colors; cluttered with small, unharmonious details; fussy:
The rug is too busy for this room.
verb (used with object), busied, busying.
to keep occupied; make or keep busy:
In summer, he busied himself keeping the lawn in order.
Origin of busy
before 1000; Middle English busi, bisi, Old English bysig, bisig; cognate with Middle Low German, Middle Dutch besich, Dutch bezig
Related forms
nonbusy, adjective
overbusy, adjective
superbusy, adjective
unbusy, adjective
well-busied, adjective
1. assiduous, hard-working. Busy, diligent, industrious imply active or earnest effort to accomplish something, or a habitual attitude of such earnestness. Busy means actively employed, temporarily or habitually: a busy official. Diligent suggests earnest and constant effort or application, and usually connotes fondness for, or enjoyment of, what one is doing: a diligent student. Industrious often implies a habitual characteristic of steady and zealous application, often with a definite goal: an industrious clerk working for promotion. 2. occupied, employed, working.
1. indolent. 2. unoccupied. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for busying
Historical Examples
  • Yanson was lying on the snow, and about him people were busying themselves.

    The Seven who were Hanged Leonid Andreyev
  • "So that's it," thought Patty, busying herself with the biscuit dough.

    The Gold Girl James B. Hendryx
  • The old man stood crouched up in a corner behind the barn, and was busying himself over a heap of straw which lay there.

    Dame Care Hermann Sudermann
  • Darkness is falling, and Theresa is busying herself with something or another.

    Poor Folk Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Stewart, who had been busying himself about the fire, now interrupted again.

    In Search of El Dorado Alexander MacDonald
  • They were puzzled to make out what it was he was busying himself with.

    In the Morning of Time Charles G. D. Roberts
  • "You seem very curious about that watch," he said at last, turning away and busying himself with his stuffs.

    Paul Patoff F. Marion Crawford
  • Veritably I was busying myself for nothing over this old vestibule.

    The Mayor's Wife Anna Katherine Green
  • At his word she rose and went to the place bard by, where the fuel was piled, busying herself there.

    A Strange Story, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Mary was now busying herself in closing and fastening these shutters.

British Dictionary definitions for busying


adjective busier, busiest
actively or fully engaged; occupied
crowded with or characterized by activity: a busy day
(mainly US & Canadian) (of a room, telephone line, etc) in use; engaged
overcrowded with detail: a busy painting
meddlesome; inquisitive; prying
verb busies, busying, busied
(transitive) to make or keep (someone, esp oneself) busy; occupy
Derived Forms
busyness, noun
Word Origin
Old English bisig; related to Middle Dutch besich, perhaps to Latin festīnāre to hurry
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for busying



Old English bisig "careful, anxious," later "continually employed or occupied," cognate with Old Dutch bezich, Low German besig; no known connection with any other Germanic or Indo-European language. Still pronounced as in Middle English, but for some unclear reason the spelling shifted to -u- in 15c.

The notion of "anxiousness" has drained from the word since Middle English. Often in a bad sense in early Modern English, "prying, meddlesome" (preserved in busybody). The word was a euphemism for "sexually active" in 17c. Of telephone lines, 1893. Of display work, "excessively detailed, visually cluttered," 1903.


late Old English bisgian, from busy (adj.). Related: Busied; busying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with busying
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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