March 06, 2012
idle (adjective)
\EYE-dul\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : having no worth or basis2 : not being used or employed3 : lazy
How do you use it?
"True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy."
Are you a word wiz?

The author of the quotation we've used as our example sentence was hardly idle, being one of the most prolific writers in history. The quotation is spoken by one of the characters invented by this writer. What character do you think is speaking?

Your brain is certainly not idle if you chose D! We lifted the quotation illustrating "idle" from Romeo and Juliet, perhaps Shakespeare's best-known play. Though we would never presume to improve upon the Bard, there are other words Shakespeare could have chosen that, like "idle," mean "not engaged in any work or activity." "Inactive" applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work. "Inert," when applied to things, implies powerlessness to move or affect other things. As applied to people, it suggests an inherent or habitual indisposition to activity. "Passive" implies immobility or lack of the normally expected response to an external force.
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