9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[ahyd-l] /ˈaɪd l/
adjective, idler, idlest.
not working or active; unemployed; doing nothing:
idle workers.
not spent or filled with activity:
idle hours.
not in use or operation; not kept busy:
idle machinery.
habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.
of no real worth, importance, or significance:
idle talk.
having no basis or reason; baseless; groundless:
idle fears.
frivolous; vain:
idle pleasures.
meaningless; senseless:
idle threats.
futile; unavailing:
idle rage.
verb (used without object), idled, idling.
to pass time doing nothing.
to move, loiter, or saunter aimlessly:
to idle along the avenue.
(of a machine, engine, or mechanism) to operate at a low speed, disengaged from the load.
verb (used with object), idled, idling.
to pass (time) doing nothing (often followed by away):
to idle away the afternoon.
to cause (a person) to be idle:
The strike idled many workers.
to cause (a machine, engine, or mechanism) to idle:
I waited in the car while idling the engine.
the state or quality of being idle.
the state of a machine, engine, or mechanism that is idling:
a cold engine that stalls at idle.
Origin of idle
before 900; 1915-20 for def 12; Middle English, Old English īdel (adj.) empty, trifling, vain, useless; cognate with German eitel
Related forms
idleness, noun
idly, adverb
overidle, adjective
overidleness, noun
overidly, adverb
unidle, adjective
unidling, adjective
unidly, adverb
Can be confused
idle, idol, idyll (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. sluggish. Idle, indolent, lazy, slothful apply to a person who is not active. To be idle is to be inactive or not working at a job. The word is sometimes derogatory, but not always, since one may be relaxing temporarily or may be idle through necessity: pleasantly idle on a vacation; to be idle because one is unemployed or because supplies are lacking. The indolent person is naturally disposed to avoid exertion: indolent and slow in movement; an indolent and contented fisherman. The lazy person is averse to exertion or work, and especially to continued application; the word is usually derogatory: too lazy to earn a living; incurably lazy. Slothful denotes a reprehensible unwillingness to carry one's share of the burden: so slothful as to be a burden on others. 5. worthless, trivial, trifling. 7. wasteful. 11. See loiter. 13. waste.
1. busy, industrious. 5. important, worthwhile. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for idle
  • Seven months after receiving the bad news, my colleague was still unemployed, but she was not idle.
  • But then, in a few centuries, the furnaces and engines will run out of fuel and fall idle.
  • Gift of nature should be tapped, not to be left idle.
  • It is shameful that a city, will try to solve this problem while the state stands idle.
  • We can formulate axioms about information and interconnection, but in the end these are nothing more than idle speculation.
  • The quality of the comments is the same as all other blogs with the idle opinion slinging you get on any blog.
  • Migration between short term and long term storage usually occurs during otherwise idle periods.
  • The gas plants that replace coal would idle infrequently.
  • Other terms that are emerging from the lexicon of counterterrorism include taggant and idle package.
  • The first cousin of the white lie is the idle boast-not quite so harmless, but not nefarious, either.
British Dictionary definitions for idle


unemployed or unoccupied; inactive
not operating or being used
(of money) not being used to earn interest or dividends
not wanting to work; lazy
(usually prenominal) frivolous or trivial: idle pleasures
ineffective or powerless; fruitless; vain
without basis; unfounded
when tr, often foll by away. to waste or pass (time) fruitlessly or inactively: he idled the hours away
(intransitive) to loiter or move aimlessly
(intransitive) (of a shaft, engine, etc) to turn without doing useful work
(intransitive) (of an engine) to run at low speed with the transmission disengaged Also (Brit) tick over
(transitive) (US & Canadian) to cause to be inactive or unemployed
Derived Forms
idleness, noun
idly, adverb
Word Origin
Old English īdel; compare Old High German ītal empty, vain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for idle

Old English idel "empty, void; vain; worthless, useless; not employed," common West Germanic (cf. Old Saxon idal, Old Frisian idel "empty, worthless," Old Dutch idil, Old High German ital, German eitel "vain, useless, mere, pure"), of unknown origin. Idle threats preserves original sense; meaning "lazy" is c.1300.


late 15c., "make vain or worthless," from idle (adj.). Meaning "spend or waste (time)" is from 1650s. Meaning "cause to be idle" is from 1789. Sense of "running slowly and steadily without transmitting power" (as a motor) first recorded 1916. Related: Idled; idling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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