Definition of idle in English:


adjectiveidler, idlest

  • 1(of a person) avoiding work; lazy.

    ‘idle students’
    • ‘I realise now that I was idle in doing research in these years because of the pressure of teaching and other business to which I was not accustomed.’
    • ‘The government hasn't done anything to help students, they are perceived as lazy and idle where they go to university to socialise, that's not the case.’
    • ‘Not that he was absolutely idle, or averse to business then; far from it.’
    • ‘Should they be idle, they may be whipped; however, if they work hard, they are to be treated without reproach, and are well used.’
    • ‘I also believed that children weren't lazy, idle, unmotivated, all the usual list of adjectives the oppressor puts on the oppressed.’
    • ‘Those hours we allow ourselves to remain idle - to give body and mind a rest - can be our most productive times.’
    • ‘Almost day in and day out we hear how our technologists have become somewhat morbid, they're idle, they are incapable of innovation.’
    • ‘Mr Williams and others who write to the papers contrive to imply that council staff are uniquely undeserving idle bureaucrats or lazy workmen.’
    • ‘They always claim to work hard, but in truth they're nothing but lazy idle sluggards!’
    • ‘I was starting to get sick of being under-motivated, lazy, and idle.’
    • ‘Either way, I will not sit idle for the rest of my life, and you do not have the power to make me.’
    • ‘Not one to rest idle, the success of Fat Bastard has inspired Guy Anderson to take his concept to Spain.’
    • ‘There's another myth that Zhao was so lazy and idle that he would only come down to the world on the fifth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.’
    • ‘Anyhow, a pretty trivial post, but if you managed to read this far you must really like my writing cause I honestly think I'm very idle.’
    • ‘He had been too curious a child to sit idle in his quarters for the rest of the day, and secretly he ventured out to the many corridors in which he had never been.’
    • ‘We drink too much, we eat the wrong food, we are idle, we are unadventurous.’
    • ‘Smith's wealth coincided with a dip in his public profile, but he was not idle.’
    • ‘If she is good, she will have a proper bedroom and all the chocolates and taxi rides she desires, but if she is idle, Mrs. Pearce will wallop her with a broom.’
    • ‘The common criticism aimed at the overweight is that they are idle, yet nothing could be further from the truth.’
    • ‘Man would have been encouraged by this to be lazy and idle.’
    lazy, indolent, slothful, work-shy, shiftless, loafing, inactive, inert, sluggish, lethargic, languorous, listless, torpid
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) not working; unemployed.
      ‘10.3 per cent of the workforce is now idle’
      • ‘The idle rich of the day flocked to this elaborate mansion to be entertained by lavish masquerade balls and concerts, organised by a mysterious female impresario called Teresa Cornelys.’
      • ‘As an early principal she was scarcely idle, and that was the way she wanted it.’
      • ‘The most talented among them had been creamed off for local-government jobs, leaving the rest idle.’
      • ‘This was an England full of rich and idle people whose mostly misguided attempts to get married, avoid getting married, and so forth, could be made richly comic - if you like that sort of thing.’
      • ‘Now, Mr Kelly, just to ensure that you are not idle over the luncheon adjournment, there is one further thing that we would like you to do for us.’
      • ‘Usually so busy writing or revising articles or taking notes, she was idle.’
      • ‘Only fifteen women, a smaller percentage than that of men, reported that they were idle or had no occupation.’
      • ‘In the eight months between Lanarkshire and Lancashire he was not idle.’
      • ‘Not that I am idle, I got my daughter well educated, up to MSc., then fixed up with a software man in Bangalore.’
      • ‘In that time they were not idle; game was plentiful, and they hunted, roasting and drying meat, which they ate and added to their provisions.’
      • ‘But the audience is thinning these days and Yadagiri says he is idle more than six months a year.’
      • ‘Personally, I don't have a boss, and I like to let my contacts know when I am idle - usually means I am on the phone or otherwise busy.’
      • ‘The job of the Archphilarchs is to oversee the people and make sure that nobody is idle and not working hard.’
      • ‘Her perception was that the poor were more likely to be victims of drug abuse since they were mostly idle.’
      • ‘However, this did not mean that he was professionally idle.’
      • ‘While there has been a break in activities and a good rest the team have not been completely idle.’
      • ‘But we are not idle, there are cotton expeditions out all the time.’
      • ‘These students, bored and idle, may turn to making trouble to gain attention and keep interested in what's happening around them.’
      unemployed, jobless, out of work, out of a job, redundant, between jobs, workless, unwaged, unoccupied
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    2. 1.2 (especially of a machine or factory) not active or in use.
      ‘the mill has been standing idle for eight years’
      • ‘Show secretary Tim Gardner said fears that many farmers would not risk leaving their combine harvesters standing idle had not materialised.’
      • ‘Factories are idle, and small shopkeepers have been squeezed out of business.’
      • ‘Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor, the nation's largest mini mill, recently purchased Trico, an idle mill in Alabama.’
      • ‘Huge machines stood idle with only few visible workers.’
      • ‘When the children have gone home, these computer facilities and the broadband connections are just standing idle.’
      • ‘Volunteers download a software programme that can help crunch numbers when their machines are idle.’
      • ‘Suppliers can be caught with open capacity, idle machinery or tools and non-utilization of new leading edge technologies or processes.’
      • ‘Nearly 3,000 trucks were standing idle without locomotives, two-thirds of them loaded with evacuated equipment.’
      • ‘Power-management systems that put idle machines and monitors to sleep have also had an effect.’
      • ‘Alternatively, it can be switched on when the engine is idle, to heat the car interior.’
      • ‘We have had an advance factory at Shandon lying idle for several years, and ultimately it was nothing more than a grandiose target for the vandals.’
      • ‘But establishing aviation records was one thing - an idle factory was another.’
      • ‘In the case of part-time employees, machinery in the respondent's clothing factory laid idle.’
      • ‘The machines are sitting idle with the ground so wet they cannot work.’
      • ‘System Restore is a new feature that backs up vital system files when the machine is idle, by default taking a system snapshot every 10 hours.’
      • ‘It sounded like a generator or the engine of a diesel truck but with a deeper sound and intervals that were not as fast as you would hear the revs of an idle engine.’
      • ‘The unit in Castlebar is currently standing idle.’
      • ‘It was going to be a harsh Christmas for Rolls Royce workers, whose strike entered its fifth week with no prospect of a settlement before the factory, which stood idle, closing down for the two week break.’
      • ‘In addition many take on extra workers at this time of year who still have to be paid, even though combine harvesters are standing idle.’
      • ‘The forwards also seemed intent on glory as several rolling mauls were stopped dead in their tracks when the wingers were standing idle and unmarked on the flanks.’
      not in use, out of use, not operating, not working, inactive, out of action, inoperative, non-functioning, out of service, unused, unoccupied, unemployed
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    3. 1.3attributive (of time) characterized by inaction or absence of significant activity.
      ‘at no time in the day must there be an idle moment’
      • ‘What's more, it's a passing-the-time issue, something extra to do with an idle moment.’
      • ‘Hamish shook his head from the thoughts invading his head like her face did at every idle moment when she wasn't around.’
      • ‘One summer day, I spent several idle moments beside a still, shallow creek near my home, trying to goad the water striders there into flying.’
      • ‘The other day, I was feeling around my mouth with my tongue in an idle moment.’
      • ‘An idle moment passed before there was a knock at the door.’
      • ‘Imagine, for example, that you have an idle moment while stuck in traffic.’
      • ‘For those with an enthusiasm for all things Franklin, Lehrer's book may provide some idle moments of enjoyment.’
      • ‘You would always remember Alami, and you would do the things that she might have spoken of in an idle moment, as every memory twisted in your heart.’
      • ‘In this way, I can use the few idle moments when my computer is printing or saving a file to memorize a correspondence or two.’
      • ‘During idle moments I read medical journals such as the Australian Women's Weekly.’
      • ‘He subjected his workforce to a draconian regime, leaving no room for an idle moment - instant dismissal followed the detection of a man sitting down.’
      • ‘Bierce is always amusing, and the idle moment spent picking through his definitions is never wasted.’
      • ‘In my idle moments I often wonder how the wee thing goes with pronouncing ‘Mistersingha’?’
      • ‘Although it seemed like he had gotten over it quickly it still plagued him at idle moments.’
      • ‘The girls act and react naturally playing volleyball, sometimes eating a mouth full of sand on missed dive returns or just stretching during idle moments.’
      • ‘Give an imaginative type an idle moment and suddenly everyone's some strange offshoot of the human race.’
      • ‘In an idle moment I went into one of the shops and let the staff demonstrate the miracle to me.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the women will spend any idle moment weaving those offering baskets - instant, perfect, throwaway works of art.’
      • ‘Nobody can accuse ME of not using my idle time wisely.’
      • ‘There is only so much scope for attracting more mobile business users into coffee shops, and keeping them busy in their otherwise idle moments in airports and hotel lobbies.’
      unoccupied, spare, empty, vacant, unfilled, available
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    4. 1.4 (of money) held in cash or in accounts paying no interest.
      • ‘As treasurer of EMC, the data storage company, she puts a chunk of her company's idle cash into money funds nearly every day.’
      • ‘Gold prices overseas have been rising as a large amount of idle money flowed into the gold markets worldwide due to the weak dollar.’
      • ‘Only ultra-wealthy geeks like Allen, who have the interest and the idle cash, can afford to put millions at risk.’
      • ‘Volume II has also shown how money is continuously entering and leaving the circuits of capital, creating a pool of idle money.’
      • ‘Minimise idle cash balances by banking money quickly and seeking best investment rates.’
  • 2Without purpose or effect; pointless.

    ‘he did not want to waste valuable time in idle chatter’
    • ‘In the company of others, she exchanged idle chit-chat with Plato before the rest of the bloggers dispersed amongst the thinning crowd.’
    • ‘The audience didn't seem to mind - and perhaps the strongest endorsement for this film is the fact that there was no idle chatter in the auditorium.’
    • ‘You had better avoid entertaining my idle speculations, Mr Hore-Lacey, and deal with your application.’
    • ‘There is, of course, no chance of a similar ban on trains to prevent idle chatterers driving the rest of us round the twist.’
    • ‘They were infamous rumour mongers because they overheard a lot of idle chatter at the latrines.’
    • ‘They ate the rest of dinner making idle small talk and getting a feel for each other.’
    • ‘Many other females made him irritable because of their continuous idle chatter and senseless conversation.’
    • ‘That was the whole purpose of the idle chatter, to keep the minds of the courtiers from overthrowing the dynasty.’
    • ‘They spent the rest of the day in idle talk and dozing off when their exhaustion caught up to them.’
    • ‘He stood alone on the terrace, avoiding idle conversations with men he knew he had little in common with.’
    • ‘The rest of the breakfast was spent on idle talk of travel, and of the old woman telling me about Irish life.’
    • ‘The decibel level inside the Post newsroom gave the rumor credence far beyond idle chatter.’
    • ‘I guess I felt that my mind was shriveled up with idle chatter and shallow talk.’
    • ‘To reap the biggest benefits from having someone to train with, however, you need to avoid the idle chitchat and follow these guidelines on how to spot properly.’
    • ‘In the past it hasn't drawn more than a moment of idle curiosity, but since I've started paying more attention to signs of magic going on around me I wonder if this might not be part of some kind of money magic?’
    • ‘Their culture is to earn more by using less fuel, doing less labour, and carrying fewer passengers, and spend the rest of the time in idle gossip.’
    • ‘There doesn't seem to be a moment of idle speculation in the book.’
    • ‘The three of us made idle chatter, mostly about unimportant things.’
    • ‘Now, little boy, enough of this pointless, idle chit chat.’
    • ‘I tucked the idea away, however, sticking it back of my left ear where such stuff goes to percolate and a few days later started to make an idle list of names in my writing notebook.’
    frivolous, trivial, trifling, minor, petty, foolish, lightweight, shallow, superficial, insignificant, unimportant, worthless, valueless, pointless, paltry, niggling, peripheral, without depth, inane, fatuous, senseless, meaningless, purposeless, unnecessary, time-wasting
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    1. 2.1 (especially of a threat or boast) without foundation.
      ‘I knew Ellen did not make idle threats’
      • ‘She knew the Committee didn't mess around: this wasn't an idle threat.’
      • ‘The idle boast recently that New Labour were bang on target to ‘lift’ a predetermined number of children out of poverty was baffling.’
      • ‘Would we do it if we did not have the US to back up our idle threat?’
      • ‘A showbiz reporter of the old school, he used to possess fearsome power and ‘You'll never play this town again’ was no idle threat.’
      • ‘Freshwater acknowledged it was not an idle threat.’
      • ‘Again it is convenient to think that these are just idle threats and that the lives of lawyers are not at risk.’
      • ‘Judge Byron's advertising of his willingness to entertain suits from anywhere was no idle boast.’
      • ‘We can only hope it was a sincere promise and not an idle threat.’
      • ‘The good burghers of the Ayrshire town fancy themselves as an erudite bunch and in the club's round-up page in their matchday magazine showed this is no idle boast.’
      • ‘So he did something that for the rest of us is merely an idle threat.’
      • ‘Recent suggestions that we'll see return of the stiletto has been dismissed by fashion critics as an idle threat from the catwalks in Europe and New York this year.’
      • ‘Seasoned observers of the unpredictable Scot will know not to take too seriously these idle threats.’
      • ‘Barton's words were ‘potentially not just an idle threat’ and the Armed Response Unit went to see the defendant.’
      • ‘Perhaps sensing that this was not an idle threat, the protests immediately tapered off.’
      • ‘But this is an idle boast if police are forced to abandon one set of law breakers to chase after another.’
      • ‘It may simply be an idle threat - Martin's government appears stable… for now.’
      • ‘This was no idle boast, as she had a very mild and charitable disposition and possessed many good qualities.’
      • ‘That was no idle threat and it must be assumed that these thoughts have returned to him this weekend.’
      • ‘Luckily, the supervisor seemed to be quite bright, and wasn't taken in by these idle threats.’
      • ‘The larger of the two, Arlen, comes across as an insecure bully, flaunting his juvenile snake tattoo and badgering Muldrow with idle threats.’
      empty, meaningless, aimless, pointless, worthless, useless, vain, in vain, insubstantial, futile, ineffective, ineffectual
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  • 1no object Spend time doing nothing.

    ‘four men were idling outside the shop’
    with object ‘we idled the afternoon away’
    • ‘Having spent days idling in Shanghai, China's largest city, the players had never imagined the match would be so brutal and physical, especially in the second half.’
    • ‘Not that she had been idling away her time until her vocation called - Coppola already had a successful street wear clothing company called Milk Fed and a career as a photographer to her name, both of which she intends to continue.’
    • ‘Script problems trip up Carol Lempert's Edith Frank, too; she idles for an hour-and-a-half as a melancholy mom trying to hold her family together before turning into a heartless monster practically on a dime.’
    • ‘I guess I slept 50% of the trip, ate 30%, and idled 20% of the time on the aircraft.’
    • ‘An old-time farmer might well have done that - and he would have been working, not idling.’
    • ‘After a year idling, Mike started to take music courses in 2003, met people with the same interest and formed a band.’
    • ‘Is there a reason for this, or are you simply idling?’
    • ‘It's easy as pie just to sit by the highway, idling, letting the drivers pass you by.’
    • ‘One day should be spent visiting some of the key vineyards, so I took advantage of the Discovery Pass and idled away two agreeable afternoons visiting Margaux and St Emilion.’
    • ‘The next time you're idling in Italy, try asking someone to explain it.’
    • ‘Incredibly, with Bryant idling on the bench, the Lakers shook off their distractions and managed to thrash one of their supposed title rivals in their opening game.’
    • ‘By three o'clock that afternoon, idling on a green pathway in the company of Tuke Taylor and watching a farmer mow a flower-rich hay meadow, I felt a long, long way from Lisbon.’
    • ‘No one dawdles or idles there, yet they just manage to cope with the job.’
    • ‘Just at first glance, I could see a good hundred million people idling around outside and in the hallways waiting to catch their bait.’
    • ‘With 4 inches of plaid boxer shorts visible above sagging jeans, Tony Mihalo fit almost perfectly into the teen crowd idling away the night in a Naperville bowling alley.’
    • ‘Actually, the movie is set in the hotels and clubs of contemporary Tokyo, as the characters spend much of their time idling while waiting to complete their singular obligations.’
    • ‘Every day, open-backed trucks enter the city packed with families and their possessions - refugees returning home from years spent idling in Pakistan and Iran.’
    • ‘All summer long Dolly has flopped about during the heat of the day, stretching full length on the shady concrete pavers by the gate, idling away the hours she should have spent grooming.’
    • ‘At last an end to blokes idling morosely in Monsoon while the women they are browsing with compare a succession of near identical burgundy velvet.’
    • ‘As well, the frequency of idling appears to decrease as a person ages - a retiree is the least likely to idle.’
    do nothing, be inactive, vegetate, sit back, take it easy, rest on one's oars, mark time, kick one's heels, twiddle one's thumbs, kill time, languish, laze, laze about, laze around, lounge, lounge about, lounge around, loll, loll about, loll around, loaf, loaf about, loaf around, slouch, slouch about, slouch around
    fritter, while, laze, loiter
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    1. 1.1no object, with adverbial of direction Move aimlessly or lazily.
      ‘Robert idled along the pavement’
      • ‘He idled in front up the hill but was never seriously troubled to hold on by two lengths from Yogi, with Alexanderthegreat another half-length away in third.’
      • ‘The horses were idling around - how she loved to watch them their shiny coats, lissome bodies, the graceful tilt to their heads.’
      • ‘We were just idling along northbound on Happy Valley Road just talking, laughing, and listing to rock and roll music.’
      • ‘While the heat in Germany can be offered as some sort of excuse for England's lethargy, it was not that hot when they stumbled against Wales and idled to an embarrassing stop against Northern Ireland in qualifiers.’
      • ‘Victory by a head was not what his growing army of fans expected, especially at 4 / 9, but he idled in front and history might yet prove that he beat a very good horse in the Aidan O Brien trained Meath.’
      • ‘Booth's Steel were idling along in eighth spot at this time.’
      • ‘Life reverted to a series of McJobs once again as he idled around the country going from one gun fair to another - the travelling home of the racist, anti-tax, anti-government militia groups that cling to America's underbelly.’
      • ‘The horse was a bit green and just idled when he hit the front, but hey, don't be greedy!’
      • ‘Chorist, who had taken over from Naheef at halfway, did her best to battle back under Kieren Fallon as the winner idled in front, but she never really looked like overhauling the leader.’
      • ‘The explanation from a soldier idling alongside dozens of troops, was: ‘We're too busy to pick them up.’’
      • ‘Which is fine when we're idling along, watching the world change through Alexander's eyes, but makes the ending feel rushed, as if time was running out too quickly for anyone to think of anything better.’
      • ‘Wyatt spent the rest of his morning before Drama idling from class to class.’
      • ‘I idled up beside him, lighting a cigarette (my parents figured I'd be smoking anyway even if they told me not to, so they didn't really care), asking him what the problem was.’
      • ‘He picked up well and Johnny said he idled when he hit the front.’
      • ‘Miss Walton said: ‘He was left in front and he did not really want to be as he idles, but there was nothing he could do when the other fell.’’
      • ‘Still… if this blog is all that's going to keep me scribbling at the moment, I suppose I might as well keep it on the road - even if it is only idling along the kerb at 5 kph.’
      • ‘To see him at work you would think he was a mild-mannered postal worker, happily idling along on a red postie bike as he delivers the mail.’
      • ‘Fallon said: ‘I wanted to ride a race on him as when he gets to the front he idles and thinks he has done enough but everything around me was falling away and I had to go when I did.’’
      • ‘The excruciatingly beautiful clockwork ballerina's not by the Tate, which, though tragic, merely leaves me still idling along with no goal.’
      • ‘She's so relaxed in behind but idles as soon as she hits the front.’
      saunter, stroll, dawdle, drift, potter, amble, go slowly, walk slowly, loiter, maunder, wander, straggle
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    2. 1.2North American with object Take out of use or employment.
      ‘he will close the newspaper, idling 2,200 workers’
      • ‘The owner of the Sago Mine, where 12 men died after an explosion last year, said Wednesday it has idled the coal operation because of high production costs and weak prices.’
      • ‘The Tennessee Valley Authority said its Browns Ferry No.1 nuclear reactor in Athens was idled Saturday for continued testing following a 22-year shutdown.’
      • ‘Russian secret service personnel, idled by the withering of Russia's global presence, resort to private business or are re-deployed by the state to spy on industrial and economic secrets in order to aid budding Russian multinationals.’
      saunter, stroll, dawdle, drift, potter, amble, go slowly, walk slowly, loiter, maunder, wander, straggle
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  • 2(of an engine) run slowly while disconnected from a load or out of gear.

    ‘Nadine kept the engine idling’
    • ‘‘The engine is idling, and we're ready to rev it up at a moment's notice,’ says Ken Johnson, a spokesman for co-sponsor Rep.’
    • ‘She still hadn't arrived and the yacht's motors were idling and the galley crew had prepared a wonderful dinner.’
    • ‘With the car standing motionless now but with the engine still idling, she can smell foul fumes and heat.’
    • ‘With the squeal of abused metal, it grated to a halt, engine still idling.’
    • ‘With that capability, a car's engine could be automatically shut off at stoplights, or any time the engine is idling for any length of time.’
    • ‘So oil dilution isn't a problem when you're idling.’
    • ‘The driver pointed a white-gloved hand in the direction of a small ferry boat waiting at the pier, its engine idling.’
    • ‘Encouraged by how it has taken off, Donnelly plans to bring a motion to the Coquitlam city council to stop municipal vehicles from idling excessively.’
    • ‘She let the big black truck idle for a moment before turning it off.’
    • ‘A line of cars clogs the tree-lined street, engines idling in the sun.’
    • ‘I just sat outside, my car idling, waiting for her to shift to be over.’
    • ‘But automakers should learn to illuminate them only when in gear, not while idling in park.’
    • ‘The engine was idling, which made a comforting noise, and kept the blowers warm, which made her feel increasingly drowsy.’
    • ‘When she walked outside, the cab was already idling by the corner.’
    • ‘Never leave the saw unattended with the engine idling.’
    • ‘Motors idled, and tailpipes puffed and nobody was going anywhere.’
    • ‘Anthony sighed, leaving the car engine idling.’
    • ‘Josh's car is already waiting, the engine idling.’
    • ‘Buses and vans idling for a half hour at 12: 30 a.m. while bands load their gear is not a viable practice for a residential block.’
    • ‘Brian pulled into one of the angled parking slots in front of the building and sat, engine idling.’
    tick over, run slowly in neutral
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    1. 2.1with object Cause (an engine) to idle.
      • ‘He pulled up hard into the vertical and idled the engines, diminishing any heat source from the F - 22.’
      • ‘Under the proposed bylaw, drivers would be fined $100 for idling their engines for more than three minutes.’
      tick over, run slowly in neutral
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Old English īdel ‘empty, useless’, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch ijdel ‘vain, frivolous, useless’ and German eitel ‘bare, worthless’.