[ biz-ee-wurk ]

  1. work assigned for the sake of looking or keeping busy.

Origin of busywork

First recorded in 1840–50; busy + work

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use busywork in a sentence

  • And so our world of Midgard was filled with busy work and play.

    Asgard Stories | Mary H. Foster and Mabel H. Cummings
  • Kenric and his men, with the priests of St. Blane's, made busy work in burying the dead.

    The Thirsty Sword | Robert Leighton

Other Idioms and Phrases with busywork


Activity meant to take up time but not actually be productive. For example, We have to put in an eight-hour day, even if we do nothing but busy work. [c. 1840]

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