A Dictionary of the English Language
                        A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson
        Search Transcribed Entries:

Idle (adjective)

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 1039, 1040, 1040

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 1039, 1040, 1040

Ídle. adj. [ẏdel, Saxon.]

  1. Lazy; averse from labour.

    For shame, so much to do, and yet idle. Bull.

  2. Not busy; at leisure.

    For often have you writ to her; and she in modesty,
    Or else for want of idle time, could not again reply.
    Shak.

  3. Unactive; not employed.

    No war or battle's sound
    Was heard the world around,
    The idle spear and shield were high up hung.
    Milton.

    Children generally hate to be idle; all the care then is, that their busy humour should be constantly employed in something of use to them. Locke.

    Supposing, among a multitude embarked in the same vessel, there are several that, in the fury of a tempest, will rather perish than work for their preservation; would it not be madness in the rest to stand idle, and rather chuse to sink than do more than comes to their share? Addison.

  4. Useless; vain; ineffectual.

            They astonish'd, all resistance lost,
    All courage; down their idle weapons dropp'd.
    Milton.

    And threatning France, plac'd like a painted Jove,
    Held idle thunder in his lifted hand.
    Dryden.

                    Where was then
    The power that guards the sacred lives of kings?
    Why slept the lightning and the thunderbolts,
    Or bent their idle rage on fields and trees,
    When vengeance call'd 'em here?
    Dryden's Spanish Fryar.

  5. Worthless; barren; not productive of good.

    Suffice it then, thou money god, quoth he,
    That all thine idle offers I refuse;
    all that I need I have: what needeth me
    To covet more than I have cause to use?
    Fairy Queen.

            Of antres vast, and desarts idle,
    It was my hent to speak.
    Shakespeare's Othello.

                The murmuring surge,
    That on th' unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
    Cannot be heard so high.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

                He was met even now,
    Crown'd with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
    Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
    In our sustaining corn.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

  6. Trifling; of no importance: as, an idle story.

    This answer is both idle in regard of us, and also repugnant to themselves. Hooker.

    They are not, in our estimation, idle reproofs, when the authors of needless innovations are opposed with such negatives, as that of Leo: how are these new devices brought in, which our fathers never knew? Hooker, b. ii.

    His friend smil'd scornful, and, with proud contempt,
    Rejects as idle what his fellow dreamt.
    Dryden.

    An idle reason lessens the weight of the good ones you gave before. Swift.

    How ill he wishes to recall the precious hours he has spent in trifles, and loitered away in idle unprofitable diversions. Roger's Sermons.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Dryden, John (788) · Hooker, Richard (175) · Shakespeare's King Lear (144) · Locke, John (269) · Milton, John (449) · Shakespeare's Othello (60) · Rogers, John (38) · Spenser, Edmund (254) · Swift, Jonathan (306) · Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (41)

Attributes: No attributes defined yet for this entry.

Search for this word in: American Heritage · Cambridge · Dictionary.com · The Free Dictionary · Longman · Merriam-Webster · OneLook · Oxford Dictionaries · Vocabulary.com · Wiktionary · Wordnik

Discuss this entry in the forums.

Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Idle (adjective)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: April 18, 2012. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=9456.


  1. I have not found the source of the following quotation: “For shame, so much to do, and yet idle. Bull.” I know that it is not from Arbuthnot’s John Bull, as most “Bull” quotations are. If you know this quote’s source, please let me know.

  2. Brandi on April 18th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Leave a Reply


Disclaimer:
johnsonsdictionaryonline.com is completely free to use. Johnson's dictionary is in the public domain, but please respect the hours of work put into this site by linking to it or crediting it. This site assumes no liability for its content or for the content of external sites linked to it, and has no warranty or guarantee concerning accuracy or availability.