American English

Definition of idle adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1(of people) not working hard synonym lazy an idle student
  2. 2(of machines, factories, etc.) not in use to lie/stand/remain idle
  3. 3(of people) without work synonym unemployed Over ten percent of the workforce is now idle.
  4. 4[usually before noun] with no particular purpose or effect; useless idle chatter/curiosity It was just an idle threat (= not serious). It is idle to pretend that their marriage is a success.
  5. 5[usually before noun] (of time) not spent doing work or something particular In idle moments, he carved wooden figures.
    noun [uncountable] After a period of enforced idleness, she found a new job.
  7. Idioms
    the devil makes work for idle hands (saying)
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    people who do not have enough to do often start to do wrong She blamed the crimes on the local jobless teenagers. “The devil makes work for idle hands,” she would say.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: idle