AskDefine | Define idleness

Dictionary Definition



1 having no employment [syn: idling, loafing]
2 the trait of being idle out of a reluctance to work [syn: faineance]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The state of being idle; indolence; inactivity.
  2. Groundlessness; worthlessness; triviality.


state of being idle; indolence; inactivity
  • Czech: zahálka
  • German: Untätigkeit, Stillstand
  • Portuguese: inatividade
groundlessness; worthlessness; triviality

Extensive Definition

For other meanings, including people named Idle, see Idle (disambiguation).
Idle is a term which generally refers to a lack of motion and/or energy.


In describing a person or machine, idle means the act of doing nothing or no work (for example: Adolfo Dias is an idle person). This a person who spends his days doing nothing of relative importance could be said to be "idly passing his days." A computer processor or communication circuit is described as idle when it is not being used by any program, application or message. See available line. Similarly, an engine of an automobile may be described as idle when it is running only to sustain its running (not doing any useful work), this is also called tickover (See idle speed). In Canada you can get a fine for idleing in your car for a certain amount of time, depending on the city you are in. Occupying a chat room while performing another activity and saying little or nothing is known as idling. The word idle is also used on the program AIM describing the status of buddies not showing any activity at their computer. Idle is also a small village in West Yorkshire with the Famous Idle working Men's Club of which Michael Jackson is a member. Idle can also be used when calling someone "Idle" in a different manner to the first definition. Many people have described idleness as "multiple emotions combining, anger, boredom etc, to make one Idle."

Idleness as dependent upon cultural norms

Typically, when one describes a machine as idle, it is an objective statement regarding its current state. However, when used to describe a person, idle typically carries a negative connotation, with the assumption that the person is wasting their time by doing nothing of value. Such a view is reflected in the proverb "an idle mind is the devil´s workshop". This interpretation of idleness is not universal - it is more typically associated with Western cultures. Other cultures believe that simply being (doing nothing) has its own value, and they may also reject the West's definition of what is nothing and what is not.

Books on Idleness

The state of being idle is sometimes even celebrated with a few books on the subject of Idleness. How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is one such example from an author who is also known for his magazine - "The Idler", devoted to promoting its ethos of "idle living". Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell's In Praise of Idleness; And other essays is another book that explores the virtues of being idle in the modern society.
Mitchell Stevens has published a small mini-series magazine entitled "How idle are you?" which goes over basic idle concepts. (Source: North Shore Times Advertiser)
Mark Slouka published his essay, "Quitting the Paint Factory: The Virtues of Idleness" in the November 2004 Harper's Magazine, hinting at a post-scarcity economy, and linking conscious busy-ness with antidemocratic and fascist tendencies.
idleness in German: Müßiggang
idleness in French: Oisiveté
idleness in Japanese: アイドリング
idleness in Dutch: Idle time

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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