English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a friend who always goes on that I have a bad work ethic, though I am not lazy. At the same time, he says he has a good work ethic, but is lazy.

The definition of having a good work ethic is that you believe work helps further your character/moral fibre, while the definition of lazy is not wanting to do work.

My friend usually treats homework as something that needs to be done, for its own sake. For example, if a maths problem is particularly difficult, then he'll skip over it. Nothing wrong with that per se, but if he later learns how to fix it, he does not bother because he's done with it. Thus, he is disinclined to do the work (lazy), but does it anyway (not an attribute of having a good work ethic).

What is a better adjective to describe my friend? Or, failing that, is there a quick way to describe him eloquently?

share|improve this question
It sounds to me like he doesn't do it, i.e., he skips over it and then never goes back to do it- he is not diligent. He is dutiful as long as it is easy. – Jim Jan 18 '13 at 1:49
If he's lazy, then he doesn't have a good work ethic, he merely avers that he has: He talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. "Work ethic": "Work ethic is a set of values based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative, or pursuing new skills. IOW, your friend's a bullsh*tter – user21497 Jan 18 '13 at 2:32
You friend simply has his own notion of what a "good work ethic" is. Basically, he probably defines it as meaning he has a healthy attitude to work, taking into account both its costs and its rewards. But this question is Not Constructive, because he could hold any number of different positions that broadly fall into that category (which is after all normal). – FumbleFingers Jan 18 '13 at 3:33
Try workplaceSE, or SE sites related to psychology & behavioral Sc. – Kris Jan 18 '13 at 6:24
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Lackadaisical: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lackadaisical

lack·a·dai·si·cal  (lk-dz-kl)
Lacking spirit, liveliness, or interest; languid

1. lacking vitality and purpose
2. lazy or idle, esp in a dreamy way

Indolent: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/indolent

in·do·lent  (nd-lnt)

a. Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. See Synonyms at lazy.
b. Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic: humid, indolent weather

1. disliking work or effort; lazy; idle


without enthusiasm or determination


unenthusiastic [ˌʌnɪnθjuːzɪˈæstɪk]
lacking in enthusiasm
share|improve this answer
Indolent is very, very good. Just to be safe however, I'll wait until tomorrow to accapt this answer. I was going to use Lackadaisical (knew it before hand) if no one could have gotten a better answer. I'd up vote if I could (Sorry: first time on English part of Stackexhange) – Timidger Jan 18 '13 at 2:04

Your friend makes a perfunctory effort.

That is, he performs the task mechanically, with little personal attachment to the outcome.

share|improve this answer

Colloquially, we can say such a person gives the job a lick and a promise.

Lately, such a person could be called a slacker, i.e.,

  1. One who shirks work or responsibility:
share|improve this answer

Indolent and lackadaisical are both excellent adjectives to describe the material appearance of your friend's expenditure of effort. But what strikes me about your description is the dichotomy in fundamental motivation.

There is a certain type of student (arguably the majority in higher education) who are very good at doing school work simply because they are told to, and doing what is necessary to get good grades with the least amount of effort. These kinds of students do not care about the material or the act of learning per se, and though they seem to do well by societal standards, their education has fairly little impact on them. On the other hand, someone who cares deeply about learning something may be willing to work extremely hard just for the sake of how it will enrich them, but may be lazy about doing many kinds of "busy work" schools assign.

I don't know if I'm reading too much into what you said, but it sounds like your friend was the first type of student, and you more the second. It could probably be described more eloquently, but I felt it was important to point out that something about the fundamental motivation is lost with the adjectives above.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.