- 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 for idle on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for idle
And in the summer, when the lift is idle, it feeds juice into the local community.Solar Powered Ski Lift
The Daily Beast
November 24, 2014
Any upcoming release of a new Apple product guarantees a deafening cacophony of idle speculation from tech sites.Amateur Stuntmen, the iPhone 6, and More Viral Videos
August 30, 2014
The idle rich had driven down from Biarritz with their uniformed chauffeurs.Is This Hemingway’s Pamplona or a Lot of Bull?
July 13, 2014
Sviatohirsk is an idle forest resort, usually popular with families and the elderly.Ukraine Families Flee Into the Forest to Escape Brutal Fighting in Sloviansk
June 10, 2014
This was not idle speculation; Bowe Bergdahl was believed to be held by the militants of the Haqqani Network.Bergdahl’s Dad: Drone Killed Captor’s Kid
June 6, 2014
I confess, Eudora, it pained me to see you listen to his idle flattery.
Aspasia will tell you I have been a beautiful but idle dreamer all my life.
We are not now about to give him any idle panegyric on the occasion.
Did you bring your work, girls, or is it to be a case of idle hands?Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus
Jessie Graham Flower
He had seen much of her during the week, and he knew she had not been idle.Ester Ried Yet Speaking
- 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 idle
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.