- not working or active; unemployed; doing nothing: idle workers.
- not spent or filled with activity: idle hours.
- not in use or operation; not kept busy: idle machinery.
- habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.
- of no real worth, importance, or significance: idle talk.
- having no basis or reason; baseless; groundless: idle fears.
- frivolous; vain: idle pleasures.
- meaningless; senseless: idle threats.
- futile; unavailing: idle rage.
- to pass time doing nothing.
- to move, loiter, or saunter aimlessly: to idle along the avenue.
- (of a machine, engine, or mechanism) to operate at a low speed, disengaged from the load.
- to pass (time) doing nothing (often followed by away): to idle away the afternoon.
- to cause (a person) to be idle: The strike idled many workers.
- to cause (a machine, engine, or mechanism) to idle: I waited in the car while idling the engine.
- the state or quality of being idle.
- the state of a machine, engine, or mechanism that is idling: a cold engine that stalls at idle.
Origin of idle
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for idly
After idly admiring the work for almost a week, Iolas gained the courage to enter his very first gallery.Alexander Iolas: The Secret King of Surrealism
March 7, 2014
The street vendor, an older man in a baseball hat, sits by idly as tourists flood past the table.Banksy’s Biggest Trick Yet: Selling His Art on the Street for $60
October 14, 2013
He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and has been idly sitting on good intentions about getting a GED ever since.Homicide Spike Terrorizes Philly
January 29, 2012
Then the Athenians showed that their threats had not been idly uttered.Stories from Thucydides
H. L. Havell
Some say, idly, that religion is losing her hold in these strenuous days.The Call of the Twentieth Century
David Starr Jordan
Once, when she was gone, Martin idly hunted out the Song of Solomon.Dust
Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
Idly he watched "Tantibba's" figure till it disappeared in the distance.Hetty's Strange History
Why not live nobly and idly in the most beautiful of cities, under the most beautiful of skies?The Three Cities Trilogy, Complete
- unemployed or unoccupied; inactive
- not operating or being used
- (of money) not being used to earn interest or dividends
- not wanting to work; lazy
- (usually prenominal) frivolous or trivialidle pleasures
- ineffective or powerless; fruitless; vain
- without basis; unfounded
- (when tr, often foll by away) to waste or pass (time) fruitlessly or inactivelyhe idled the hours away
- (intr) to loiter or move aimlessly
- (intr) (of a shaft, engine, etc) to turn without doing useful work
- (intr) (of an engine) to run at low speed with the transmission disengagedAlso (Brit): tick over
- (tr) US and Canadian to cause to be inactive or unemployed
Word Origin and History for idly
Old English idel "empty, void; vain; worthless, useless; not employed," common West Germanic (cf. Old Saxon idal, Old Frisian idel "empty, worthless," Old Dutch idil, Old High German ital, German eitel "vain, useless, mere, pure"), of unknown origin. Idle threats preserves original sense; meaning "lazy" is c.1300.
late 15c., "make vain or worthless," from idle (adj.). Meaning "spend or waste (time)" is from 1650s. Meaning "cause to be idle" is from 1789. Sense of "running slowly and steadily without transmitting power" (as a motor) first recorded 1916. Related: Idled; idling.