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

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. 2018

Examples from the Web for over-busy

Historical Examples of over-busy

  • Jealousy, that troubler of reason, had been over-busy with his wits as it had with hers.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

  • These attacks were some of the “arrows of malignancy,” which naturally fell about the over-busy man.

  • She got up and walked about, to try and stop her over-busy fancy by bodily exercise.


    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

  • This is no disease, to be treated with the grey powder and the castor oil wherewith the over-busy monthly nurse is always ready.

  • It is necessarily true in all such cases that many of the over-busy man's duties recur day after day.

British Dictionary definitions for over-busy


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 over-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 over-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.