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See also: IDLE and Idle



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English idel, ydel, from Old English īdel, from Proto-West Germanic *īdal, from Proto-Germanic *īdalaz. Cognate with Dutch ijdel (vain, meaningless), ijl (rareified, skinny), iel (thin, slender); German Low German iedel (vain, idle); German eitel (vain, conceited); and possibly Old Norse illr ("bad"; > English ill).


idle (comparative more idle, superlative most idle)

  1. (obsolete) Empty, vacant.
  2. Not being used appropriately; not occupied; (of time) with no, no important, or not much activity.
    idle hours
    My computer hibernates after it has been idle for 30 minutes.
    • 2009, Jane Bryant Quinn, Making the Most of Your Money Now:
      The majority of accounts require no minimum balance and charge no monthly service fee. Where monthly fees and balance requirements exist, they're low. You earn no interest on the idle money in the account.
  3. Not engaged in any occupation or employment; unemployed; inactive; doing nothing in particular.
    idle workmen
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC:
      Molly the dairymaid came a little way from the rickyard, and said she would pluck the pigeon that very night after work. She was always ready to do anything for us boys; and we could never quite make out why they scolded her so for an idle hussy indoors. It seemed so unjust. Looking back, I recollect she had very beautiful brown eyes.
  4. Averse to work, labor or employment; lazy; slothful.
    an idle fellow
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter VI, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC:
      “I don't mean all of your friends—only a small proportion—which, however, connects your circle with that deadly, idle, brainless bunch—the insolent chatterers at the opera, the gorged dowagers, the worn-out, passionless men, the enervated matrons of the summer capital, []!”
  5. Of no importance; useless; worthless; vain; trifling; thoughtless; silly.
    an idle story;  idle talk;  idle rumor
  6. (obsolete) Light-headed; foolish.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English idelen, from Old English īdlian, from Proto-West Germanic *īdalēn. Cognate with German eiteln (to make empty, free up).


idle (third-person singular simple present idles, present participle idling, simple past and past participle idled)

  1. (transitive) To spend in idleness; to waste; to consume.
  2. (intransitive) To lose or spend time doing nothing, or without being employed in business.
    to idle in an IRC channel
    • 1939, Joan Evans, Chateaubriand, page 32:
      He had already heard of the young man's projected journey — evidently the Comte de Combourg had written many letters while his son idled at St. Malo []
  3. (intransitive) Of an engine: to run at a slow speed, or out of gear; to tick over.
    • 2021 October 6, Paul Clifton, “Network News: RSSB research exposes poor air quality on diesel trains”, in RAIL, number 941, page 14:
      High levels of all pollutants were found during time idling in stations.
  4. (transitive) To cause (an engine) to idle(3)
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English idel, ydel, from Old English īdel (idleness), from the adjective (see above).


idle (plural idles)

  1. The state of idling, of being idle.
  2. (mechanical engineering) The lowest selectable thrust or power setting of an engine.
  3. (gaming) An idle animation.
  4. (gaming) An idle game.
    Synonyms: idle game, incremental game





  • IPA(key): /ˈidle/ [ˈið̞.le]
  • Rhymes: -idle
  • Syllabification: id‧le



  1. second-person plural imperative of ir combined with le