[ biz-ee ]
See synonyms for busy on Thesaurus.com
adjective,bus·i·er, bus·i·est.
  1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime: busy with her work.

  2. not at leisure; otherwise engaged: He couldn't see any visitors because he was busy.

  1. full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.

  2. (of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.

  3. officious; meddlesome; prying.

  4. 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),bus·ied, bus·y·ing.
  1. to keep occupied; make or keep busy: In summer, he busied himself keeping the lawn in order.

Origin of busy

First recorded before 950; Middle English busi, bisi, Old English bysig, bisig; cognate with Middle Low German, Middle Dutch besich, Dutch bezig

synonym study For busy

1. 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.

Other words for busy

Opposites for busy

Other words from busy

  • non·bus·y, adjective
  • o·ver·bus·y, adjective
  • su·per·bus·y, adjective
  • un·bus·y, adjective
  • well-busied, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use busy in a sentence

  • Every one, however, busies himself about things quite foreign to the work of the office.

    The Nabob | Alphonse Daudet
  • He busies himself throughout twelve books in teaching his students how to use all possible means to persuasion.

  • Zoséphine busies herself with her riding-skirt, shifts her seat a little, and with studied carelessness assents.

    Bonaventure | George Washington Cable
  • We needed a word for the individual who busies himself with, or drives an automobile, and so we have adapted the word chauffeur.

    The Automobilist Abroad | M. F. (Milburg Francisco) Mansfield
  • In fact, he often has to leave the machine for a short time to look after itself while he busies himself with the gun.

British Dictionary definitions for busy


/ (ˈbɪzɪ) /

adjectivebusier or busiest
  1. actively or fully engaged; occupied

  2. crowded with or characterized by activity: a busy day

  1. mainly US and Canadian (of a room, telephone line, etc) in use; engaged

  2. overcrowded with detail: a busy painting

  3. meddlesome; inquisitive; prying

verbbusies, busying or busied
  1. (tr) to make or keep (someone, esp oneself) busy; occupy

Origin of busy

Old English bisig; related to Middle Dutch besich, perhaps to Latin festīnāre to hurry

Derived forms of busy

  • busyness, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with busy


In addition to the idioms beginning with busy

  • busy as a beaver
  • busy work

also see:

  • get busy

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.