Idol, Idle, and Idyll (Grammar Lesson)

An idol is someone or something you admire or worship. For example: Idle means lazy. (To idle is used for an engine running in a neutral state.) An idyll is a pleasant, peaceful, or picturesque time or place. (An idyll can also be a short description of a picturesque scene or event.)

Idol, Idle, and Idyll

The words idol, idle, and idyll sound similar, but their meanings are very different.


The noun idol denotes a representation (e.g., statue, carving, figurine) of a god used as an object of worship. The word idol is often used figuratively to denote a person or object that is greatly admired, loved, or revered. For example:


The word idle is most commonly used as an adjective meaning lazy or work-shy. For example: Idle can also mean worthless or pointless. For example: Idle can also be used as verb meaning to take it easy, languish, or lounge around. For example: When it refers to an engine, to idle means to run slowly while out of gear or detached from a load. For example:


The noun idyll denotes a happy, peaceful, or picturesque period or event. It means an ideal time or an ideal place. For example: Idyll is also used to denote a short piece of verse describing a picturesque scene or incident (typically a rural one). For example:

An Idol Can Be a Doll

Let the dol in "idol" remind you that an idol can be a doll (i.e., a figurine that can be worshipped).

Idle Can Mean Lethargic

Let the le in "idle" remind you that an idle can mean lethargic (similar to lazy).

Idyllic Comes from Idyll

Writers tend to be clear on the meaning of idyllic. Remember that idyllic comes from idyll.

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See Also

What is figurative language? What are nouns? What are adjectives? What are verbs? List of easily confused words