See more synonyms for idle on
adjective, i·dler, i·dlest.
  1. not working or active; unemployed; doing nothing: idle workers.
  2. not spent or filled with activity: idle hours.
  3. not in use or operation; not kept busy: idle machinery.
  4. habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.
  5. of no real worth, importance, or significance: idle talk.
  6. having no basis or reason; baseless; groundless: idle fears.
  7. frivolous; vain: idle pleasures.
  8. meaningless; senseless: idle threats.
  9. futile; unavailing: idle rage.
verb (used without object), i·dled, i·dling.
  1. to pass time doing nothing.
  2. to move, loiter, or saunter aimlessly: to idle along the avenue.
  3. (of a machine, engine, or mechanism) to operate at a low speed, disengaged from the load.
verb (used with object), i·dled, i·dling.
  1. to pass (time) doing nothing (often followed by away): to idle away the afternoon.
  2. to cause (a person) to be idle: The strike idled many workers.
  3. to cause (a machine, engine, or mechanism) to idle: I waited in the car while idling the engine.
  1. the state or quality of being idle.
  2. the state of a machine, engine, or mechanism that is idling: a cold engine that stalls at idle.

Origin of idle

before 900; 1915–20 for def 12; Middle English, Old English īdel (adj.) empty, trifling, vain, useless; cognate with German eitel
Related formsi·dle·ness, nouni·dly, adverbo·ver·i·dle, adjectiveo·ver·i·dle·ness, nouno·ver·i·dly, adverbun·i·dle, adjectiveun·i·dling, adjectiveun·i·dly, adverb
Can be confusedidle idol idyll (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for idle

See more synonyms for on
1. sluggish. Idle, indolent, lazy, slothful apply to a person who is not active. To be idle is to be inactive or not working at a job. The word is sometimes derogatory, but not always, since one may be relaxing temporarily or may be idle through necessity: pleasantly idle on a vacation; to be idle because one is unemployed or because supplies are lacking. The indolent person is naturally disposed to avoid exertion: indolent and slow in movement; an indolent and contented fisherman. The lazy person is averse to exertion or work, and especially to continued application; the word is usually derogatory: too lazy to earn a living; incurably lazy. Slothful denotes a reprehensible unwillingness to carry one's share of the burden: so slothful as to be a burden on others. 5. worthless, trivial, trifling. 7. wasteful. 11. See loiter. 13. waste.

Antonyms for idle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for idled

Contemporary Examples of idled

Historical Examples of idled

  • She turned over slowly, fired twice, idled, then fired again.

  • On the contrary, he always corrected him when he prevaricated, and scolded him when he idled.

    Follow My leader

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • For a while he idled, and then he had an attack of delirium tremens.

    The Trembling of a Leaf

    William Somerset Maugham

  • Now, however, he idled, thinking how sloppy the streets would be.

    Sister Carrie

    Theodore Dreiser

  • I thought, before, that you had only idled and trifled away your time; but now I know.

    Armorel of Lyonesse

    Walter Besant

British Dictionary definitions for idled


  1. unemployed or unoccupied; inactive
  2. not operating or being used
  3. (of money) not being used to earn interest or dividends
  4. not wanting to work; lazy
  5. (usually prenominal) frivolous or trivialidle pleasures
  6. ineffective or powerless; fruitless; vain
  7. without basis; unfounded
  1. (when tr, often foll by away) to waste or pass (time) fruitlessly or inactivelyhe idled the hours away
  2. (intr) to loiter or move aimlessly
  3. (intr) (of a shaft, engine, etc) to turn without doing useful work
  4. (intr) (of an engine) to run at low speed with the transmission disengagedAlso (Brit): tick over
  5. (tr) US and Canadian to cause to be inactive or unemployed
Derived Formsidleness, nounidly, adverb

Word Origin for idle

Old English īdel; compare Old High German ītal empty, vain
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 idled



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper