Are you a ‘couch potato,’ ‘indolent,’ or ‘lackadaisical?’ On today’s episode of Thinking in English, let’s learn some excellent vocabulary to describe laziness in English!!
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Over the last few days I’ve struggled with motivation. My sleeping pattern was ruined after I fell ill for a few days in January, and I’ve just felt incredibly lazy!
Have you ever felt this way before? What do you do when you feel lazy, unmotivated, or distracted? I was trying to write this episode last night, but instead spent hours watching YouTube videos, browsing the internet, and even making my own google maps. And as I tend to work late at night, I’m always very lazy in the mornings. But I need to stop being so lazy!
The English language has quite a few excellent words, phrases, and idioms that can mean ‘lazy’ or ‘lazy person.’ Laziness is something that happens to all of us, so learning a few good alternative ways of describing your situation is a great way to improve your vocabulary. I actually recorded some similar episodes on emotions including embarrassment, sadness, and happiness a few months ago – I’d recommend you all check those out too!
We’ll start with a few synonyms for lazy, and then look at some of the best idioms and related phrases!
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‘Lazy’ Synonyms and Related Words!
Here are some useful words to use in the place of “lazy”!!
Since the eighteenth century, indolent has taken on the meaning ‘lazy.’ If something is indolent, it shows no effort or real interest. Indolent people want to avoid exertion or activity.
We can describe people as indolent: such as an “indolent child who never goes outside”; or we can describe actions as indolent: for example “he greeted me with an indolent wave of the hand.”
The word idle has been used in English to mean lazy for over 700 years. Idle is originally a Germanic word with a meaning of ‘empty’ or ‘worthless.’ Now, idle has a few meanings related to being lazy.
For instance, idle can mean being lazy and not willing to work. Idle may be used as an adjective to describe a person or thing that moves without purpose and spends time doing nothing.
Laggard is a great old word to describe a lazy person, which has actually been growing in popularity over the past few years. As a noun, a laggard is someone or something that is very slow. A laggard would make slow progress and fall behind the speed of others! For example, “our company has no time for laggards.”
Laggard can also be an adjective meaning slower than desired or expected. For example, “the teachers had to ring the bell twice to summon the laggard children to school.”
Lethargic is a close synonym to lazy. If you are lethargic, you have very little energy, and you feel unable or unwilling to do anything. It is also often used in a phrase alongside tired – such as “I was feeling tired and lethargic.” I think lethargic best describes how I’ve been feeling recently.
This is one of my favourite adjectives to describe lazy. Lackadaisical means showing little enthusiasm and effort. Lackadaisical is often used to refer to poor quality or low effort actions: such as “that restaurant has delicious food but the service is lackadaisical” or the “soccer team conceded a goal due to lackadaisical defence.” It is almost a combination of lazy and careless.
Layabout is the kind of word my dad used to use to describe my younger brother. It is one of the most popular nouns that refers to a lazy person who is unwilling to work. In particular, a layabout is a person who does not work as a habit.
I used to have a roommate who was a layabout who never went out, cleaned the house, or did any work. Or someone may ask you “why are you hanging around with that layabout?”
Sluggish is a really nice ‘lazy’ synonym! Someone who is sluggish, moves, acts, or works with less than usual speed or energy. I had a sluggish morning today: I just watched TV and drank coffee. Think about the animal called ‘slug’: those little slimy and slow moving insects were actually named after the word sluggish.
As well as describing slow moving objects (like a sluggish car or a sluggish stream), sluggish is also used to mean lacking energy or alertness. And like lethargic, sluggish is commonly used in combination with the word ‘tired.’
While the previous word was connected to the animal slug, slothful has similarly inspired the name of the slow moving South American animal the sloth. The terms slothful and sloth have been used to describe laziness for centuries. In fact, sloth is one of the Catholic religions ‘seven deadly sins.’
Basically, slothful means lazy. For example, “my class is full of slothful children” or “Fatigue has made me slothful.”
I think you can probably guess the meaning of workshy from the word itself. It is a great synonym for lazy, and describes someone who should be at work, but is not! Workshy people dislike work and try to avoid it as much as possible!
For instance, “some politicians are worried Americans have become workshy due to generous government benefits.”
Lazy Idioms and Phrase
Now let’s look at some lazy idioms and phrases!
In the first part of the podcast, I introduced idle as a direct synonym of lazy. How about if you wanted a phrase to mean ‘very lazy’? You could say ‘very idle,’ but a more interesting alternative is bone idle. Simply put, bone idle means extremely lazy.
I’m sure when my brother and I were teenagers, my mum must have been concerned about her bone idle sons!
Bum about and bum around are phrasal verbs that mean to be lazy or idle. Sometimes, I just bum around doing nothing all day. Have you just walked slowly around your house, not doing anything important even though you probably should be doing something else? If you have, you’ve bummed about.
A couch potato is a person who watches a lot of television and lives a very inactive lifestyle. Rather than going out or doing activities, couch potatoes do nothing other than watch TV. The life of a couch potato is a very lazy life!
This term was first used in a 1970s comic to describe a group of lazy characters the artist called couch potatoes. Since then, the phrase has become a very popular way to describe lazy people who watch too much TV!
I was unsure whether to include duvet day in this list. Duvet day has come to mean an unscheduled extra day taken off work, and is used to free yourself from stress or pressure. I would not count this as lazy! In fact, some companies officially allow workers to take a few duvet days a year.
However, duvet day can also refer to a lazy day spent entirely under a duvet. A duvet is a large, soft, flat bag filled with feathers and used as a covering on a bed! So duvet day can be used to describe a lazy day spent under the duvet!
Lazybones is a noun that describes someone who is lazy. Unlike some other terms that describe laziness on today’s episode, lazybones is often used as a form of address. For example, “Hey lazybones! Get out of bed!” or “Come for a walk with me, lazybones!”
Lie Down on the Job
If you lie down on the job you fail to work as hard or as well as you should! Lying down on the job means to neglect your responsibilities and fail to do your job. Basically, lying down on the job is a great phrase to suggest laziness at work!
Pollution has been getting worse because government officials have been lying down on the job. If my colleagues often lie down on the job, I will get very frustrated!
Slack off is a phrasal verb which means to be lazy, to procrastinate, and to avoid your work duty! If you keep slacking off, you stop working hard or putting effort into things. Workers who slack off work less hard than usual or necessary!
Often this is used in the context of work and school! For example, “companies want to make sure their employees aren’t slacking off” or “if you keep slacking off in class you will definitely fail!”
After listening to this episode, hopefully you now have some excellent ways to describe the next lazy situation you encounter! All of us have probably bummed around at some point, been described as lazybones by our families, or thought about slacking off occasionally. Now you can talk about this in English!
Do you know any other ways of saying ‘lazy’ in English? Let me know in the comments!
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