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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.
  3. full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.
  4. (of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.
  5. officious; meddlesome; prying.
  6. 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

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

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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 busying

Historical Examples of busying

  • She smiled at the conceit, busying herself with the tea things.

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb

  • "You'd meet Flavia," Corrie declared, busying himself with his own ablutions.

    From the Car Behind

    Eleanor M. Ingram

  • "So that's it," thought Patty, busying herself with the biscuit dough.

    The Gold Girl

    James B. Hendryx

  • "We will begin with Miss Ashe," she said, busying herself with some papers on her desk.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston

    Caroline E. Jacobs

  • Darkness is falling, and Theresa is busying herself with something or another.

    Poor Folk

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky

British Dictionary definitions for busying


adjective busier or busiest
  1. actively or fully engaged; occupied
  2. crowded with or characterized by activitya busy day
  3. mainly US and Canadian (of a room, telephone line, etc) in use; engaged
  4. overcrowded with detaila busy painting
  5. meddlesome; inquisitive; prying
verb busies, busying or busied
  1. (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 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

Idioms and Phrases with busying


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.