adjective, bus·i·er, bus·i·est.

verb (used with object), bus·ied, bus·y·ing.

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 formsnon·bus·y, adjectiveo·ver·bus·y, adjectivesu·per·bus·y, adjectiveun·bus·y, adjectivewell-bus·ied, adjective

Synonyms for busy

1. assiduous, hard-working. 2. occupied, employed, working.

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for busy

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for busy

Contemporary Examples of busy

Historical Examples of busy

  • Plato perceived that the contemplative maiden was busy with memories of the past.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • In these solitary tours he was busy and happy, working and playing.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He was busy almost half an hour, while Uncle Peter smoked in silence.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • All busy preparing for a start for the Head of the Bight to-morrow.

  • There is a look of industrious nothingness about him, such as busy dogs have.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

British Dictionary definitions for busy


adjective busier or busiest

actively or fully engaged; occupied
crowded with or characterized by activitya busy day
mainly US and Canadian (of a room, telephone line, etc) in use; engaged
overcrowded with detaila busy painting
meddlesome; inquisitive; prying

verb busies, busying or busied

(tr) to make or keep (someone, esp oneself) busy; occupy
Derived Formsbusyness, noun

Word Origin for busy

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

Word Origin and History for busy

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

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.