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 idling
  • idling school buses spew tons of exhaust into the air, putting children at risk when they leave school at the end of each day.
  • The drumbeat of idling engines at stoplights is starting to be replaced by dead silence.
  • Information on idling emissions from school bus engines and how to reduce them.
  • Of all its distinctive characteristics none is more familiar than the po-ta-to, po-ta-to, po-ta-to sound of the idling engine.
  • They are thus eager to harness the enormous processing power of idling home computers.
  • Government then have to print or borrow the idling money and recirculate.
  • As well as pruning workforces, many manufacturing, metals and mining companies are idling some factories and mothballing others.
  • If the light ahead is red, the driver is told the optimal speed to avoid stopping and idling.
  • But if too much dilution occurs, the water will get lighter, idling on top and stalling out the system.
  • The prototype fuel cells have such desirable features as the ability to recharge and minimum loss of energy while idling.
British Dictionary definitions for idling


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 idling



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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