Skip to main content
Select Source:

idle

i·dle / ˈīdl/ • adj. (i·dler , i·dlest ) 1. (esp. of a machine or factory) not active or in use: assembly lines standing idle for lack of spare parts. ∎  (of a person) not working; unemployed. ∎  (of a person) avoiding work; lazy. ∎  (of time) characterized by inaction or absence of significant activity: at no time in the day must there be an idle moment. ∎  (of money) held in cash or in accounts paying no interest. 2. without purpose or effect; pointless: he did not want to waste valuable time in idle chatter. ∎  (esp. of a threat or boast) without foundation: I knew Ellen did not make idle threats. • v. [intr.] (of a person) spend time doing nothing; be idle: four men were idling outside the shop. ∎  [intr.] move aimlessly or lazily: Cal idled past MetroHealth at a stately pace. ∎  (of an engine) run slowly while disconnected from a load or out of gear: the car is noisily idling in the street. ∎  [tr.] cause (an engine) to idle. ∎  [tr.] take out of use or employment: he will close the newspaper, idling 2,200 workers. PHRASAL VERBS: idle something away spend one's time doing nothing or very little.DERIVATIVES: i·dle·ness n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"idle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"idle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-1

"idle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

idle

idle an idle brain is the devil's workshop those who do not apply themselves to their work are most likely to get into trouble (compare the Devil finds work for idle hands to do). The saying is recorded from the early 17th century.
idle people have the least leisure lazy people are the least able to manage their time efficiently (compare the busiest men have the most leisure). The saying is recorded from the late 17th century.

See also as good be an addled egg as an idle bird, the Devil finds work for idle hands to do at devil, it is idle to swallow the cow at swallow2.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"idle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"idle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle

"idle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

idle

idle †empty; worthless, useless; doing nothing, inactive OE.; lazy, indolent XIII. OE. īdel = OS. īdal empty, worthless (Du. ijdel), OHG. ītal (G. eitel), ult. orig. unkn. Primary meaning prob. ‘empty’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"idle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"idle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-2

"idle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-2

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

idle

idleaddle, paddle, saddle, skedaddle, staddle, straddle •candle, Coromandel, dandle, Handel, handle, mishandle, Randall, sandal, scandal, vandal •manhandle, panhandle •packsaddle • side-saddle •backpedal, heddle, medal, meddle, pedal, peddle, treadle •Grendel, Kendall, Lendl, Mendel, Rendell, sendal, Wendell •cradle, ladle •beadle, bipedal, credal, needle, wheedle •diddle, fiddle, griddle, kiddle, Liddell, middle, piddle, riddle, twiddle •brindle, dwindle, kindle, spindle, swindle, Tyndale •paradiddle, taradiddle •pyramidal • apsidal •bridal, bridle, fratricidal, genocidal, germicidal, homicidal, idle, idol, infanticidal, insecticidal, intertidal, matricidal, parricidal, patricidal, pesticidal, regicidal, sidle, suicidal, tidal, tyrannicidal, uxoricidal •coddle, doddle, model, noddle, swaddle, toddle, twaddle, waddle •fondle, rondel •mollycoddle •caudal, chordal, dawdle •poundal, roundel •Gödel, modal, yodel •crinoidal •boodle, caboodle, canoodle, doodle, feudal, noodle, poodle, strudel, udal •befuddle, cuddle, fuddle, huddle, muddle, puddle, ruddle •bundle, trundle •prebendal • synodal •antipodal, tripodal •citadel •curdle, engirdle, girdle, hurdle •dirndl

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"idle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"idle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-0

"idle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/idle-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.