adj. i·dler, i·dlest
a. Not employed or busy: idle carpenters. See Synonyms at inactive.
b. Disinclined to work or be active; lazy: “a man who could seem idle, ignorant, even incompetent, yet was able to understand and to express ... the instincts, good and bad, of the American majority” (Godfrey Hodgson).
c. Not in use or operation: idle hands; idle mills.
d. Sports Not scheduled to play a game: Both teams played today but will be idle tomorrow.
2. Being a period of time in which there is little or no activity: passed idle hours watching TV.
v. i·dled, i·dling, i·dles
1. To pass time without being engaged in purposeful activity: “The girls idled all day long, sending their tinkling laughter flowing up and down the street” (Alai).
2. To move slowly or without purpose: “I drove past the workshop ... I idled along the driveway past the pole fence ... to Tyhee Road” (Tom Spanbauer).
3. To run at a slow speed or out of gear. Used of a motor or motor vehicle.
1. To pass (time) without doing anything: idle the afternoon away.
2. To make or cause to be unemployed or inactive: layoffs that idled 1,000 factory workers; a plant that was idled by a strike.
3. To cause (a motor, for example) to idle.
1. A state of idling. Used of a motor vehicle: an engine running quietly at idle.
2. A mechanism for regulating the speed at which an engine runs at rest: set the idle higher to keep the motor from stalling.
[Middle English idel, from Old English īdel, from West Germanic *īdla- (compare Dutch ijdel, Low German iedel, and German eitel), of unknown origin.]
idler (īdlər) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.