Definition of footle in English:



[no object]British
  • Engage in fruitless activity; mess about.

    ‘where's that pesky creature that was footling about outside?’
    • ‘Having taken the lead against Turkey their football became fitful, then flabby, and towards the end was footling.’
    • ‘For the next 45 minutes, the girls and I footle about in the kiddie park, playing tag, and hide-and-seek, and find-the-cicada.’
    • ‘Well, the clams footled on and tried to swamp the plaintiffs with lengthy motions.’
    • ‘He has been dubbed Canada's David Lynch, which is a lazy way of saying he likes to footle around beneath the facade of respectability.’
    • ‘Once they became a vital part of any transaction, I fiddled and footled about until the realisation dawned that I would not be able to buy anything unless I got a pin.’
    • ‘I'm happily watching England footle around against Liechtenstein, (world leaders in denture manufacture) in a Euro 2004 qualifier on the telly.’
    • ‘Given the car's brick outhouse aerodynamics it footles along at a fair old clip, only the odd crosswind unsettling matters.’
    • ‘More than most well-educated, middle-class talents of his generation, he footled his life away as a forlorn, frustrated flaneur, squandering several inherited fortunes to achieve renown only under a false name playing an elaborate practical joke.’
    • ‘Allow one honest sentence to emerge from all this feeble, formulaic footling.’
    • ‘I have had a good deal of satisfaction over this weekend either footling around on my mountainbike, or watching the Manchester leg of the World Cup.’
    • ‘But I would be very surprised if most hunt members didn't soon tire of footling about and looked for other ways to relieve the boredom of country life in winter.’


Late 19th century: perhaps from dialect footer ‘idle, potter about’, from 16th-century foutre ‘worthless thing’, from Old French, literally ‘have sexual intercourse with’.