Definition of footle in English:



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

    ‘where's that pesky creature that was footling about outside?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I'm happily watching England footle around against Liechtenstein, (world leaders in denture manufacture) in a Euro 2004 qualifier on the telly.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Allow one honest sentence to emerge from all this feeble, formulaic footling.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Having taken the lead against Turkey their football became fitful, then flabby, and towards the end was footling.’
    • ‘Given the car's brick outhouse aerodynamics it footles along at a fair old clip, only the odd crosswind unsettling matters.’
    • ‘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.’


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