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.
One of the senses of the verb idle, “to spend one’s time doing nothing,” dates from the 17th century and is first recorded in Samuel Pepys’ Diary.
The mechanical sense, used of a motor or engine disengaged from its load and operating at a low speed, dates from the 20th century.
- i·dle·ness, noun
- i·dly, adverb
- o·ver·i·dle, adjective
- o·ver·i·dle·ness, noun
- un·i·dle, adjective
- un·i·dling, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use idle in a sentence
Speaking of special touches, I was sad to see the piano idle midweek but cheered to hear it’s played on Fridays and Saturdays.A reopened Marcel’s reminds me that fine dining, especially now, is about more than food | Tom Sietsema | November 6, 2020 | Washington Post
These strategies leave the battery "idle" for portions of the day—for comparison, imagine purchasing a taxi but only running it in the mornings.To make batteries a better investment, let them do more | Scott K. Johnson | November 5, 2020 | Ars Technica
Computers, TVs and other electronics generate a lot of heat when sitting idle or even when turned off.Changing climates can take cooling tips from warm regions | Sharon Oosthoek | October 8, 2020 | Science News For Students
The app aims to give users controls to designate when they’re heads-down, need to talk or just open for some idle chitchat.Remotion raises $13M to create a workplace video platform for short, spontaneous conversations | Lucas Matney | October 6, 2020 | TechCrunch
By definition this meant lower returns—because banks had to leave some capital idle rather than deploy it.Econ 3.0? What economists can contribute to (and learn from) the pandemic | Claire Beatty | September 28, 2020 | MIT Technology Review
The former politicians offer a variety of reasons for idling their campaign riches instead of giving them away.Ex-Politicians Keeping $100 Million in Private Slush Funds | Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity | May 22, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
I walked behind the idling swing and gave it a gentle puff of a push.
But a lot of that time is spent idling—waiting for a call, or in between jobs.
On Sept. 5, Saad Al-Hilli, 50, his wife, Iqbal, 47, and her mother, Suhaila Al-Allaf, 74, were found dead in their idling BMW.
The car, with United Kingdom license plates, was idling and locked from the inside.
A big gray sedan stood in the middle of the road, the motor idling.
With a half-smile he rose, and going to the door he bade his page who was idling in the anteroom go summon the captain.St. Martin's Summer | Rafael Sabatini
When he ought to have been in school, he was fishing, and idling away his time along the margins of the brooks and rivers.Charles Duran | The Author of The Waldos
The next day I pleaded indisposition and spent most of the hours idling and drowsing in my chamber.Tiger Cat | David H. Keller
The next morning the wicked sister, as she sat idling by the stove, took a fancy for some strawberries.Laboulaye's Fairy Book | Various
British Dictionary definitions for idle
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 trivial: idle pleasures
ineffective or powerless; fruitless; vain
without basis; unfounded
(when tr, often foll by away) to waste or pass (time) fruitlessly or inactively: he 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 disengaged: Also (Brit): tick over
(tr) US and Canadian to cause to be inactive or unemployed
- idleness, noun
- idly, adverb
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