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As I am a person who frequently intends to do nothing (or at any rate as little as possible), I wondered if there was a word meaning "the act of intending to do nothing".

I had the impression that floccinaucinihilipilification meant this, but sadly it turns out not to be so.

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Maybe I'm slow, but I can't think of any single word that means the act of intending to do anything, except in highly specific contexts - such as registration, which could in context be interpreted as the act of intending to vote. In practice, it seems to me any such "act of intending" could only be some necessary precondition for the actual intended activity (or inactivity, in OP's case) to take place. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 12:55
Has no one mentioned "laissez-faire" (in its original French sense) yet? I sometimes refer to it as lazy/fair, because that's my opinion of its effect on the economy (lazy government = do nothing = fair). – barrycarter Nov 11 '11 at 18:06
RE: "as little as possible" economize – IberoMedia Apr 26 '13 at 18:52
"Laissez-faire" is more of a non-chalant, aloof attitude of actually doing nothing, than declaring one's intention of doing nothing. – vapcguy Apr 27 '15 at 22:21
@Brian, How would "floccinaucinihilipilification" has got anything to do with "inactivity"? – Pacerier Sep 30 '15 at 6:13

21 Answers 21

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Not sure about "the act of intending to do nothing", but idling is the "act of doing nothing":

1. To pass time without working or while avoiding work.
2. To move lazily and without purpose.
3. To run at a slow speed or out of gear. Used of a motor vehicle.
1. To pass (time) without working or while avoiding work; waste: idle the afternoon away.
2. To make or cause to be unemployed or inactive.
3. To cause (a motor, for example) to idle.
1. A state of idling. Used of a motor vehicle: an engine running quietly at idle.
2. A mechanism for regulating the speed at which an engine runs at rest: set the idle >higher to keep the motor from stalling.

You could get a subscription of The Idler and read it in the Idle Working Mens Club. (Although that sounds a bit too much like hard work.)

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We students love the word SLACK. OH YEAH!

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You mean Slack Off which I think is the best suggestion so far – mplungjan Nov 12 '11 at 18:11
@mplungjan, "slack" alone is fine too. The Webster link above clearly states "intransitive verb, to shirk or evade work or duty, to be or become slack [wanting in activity, characterized by slowness, sluggishness, or lack of energy]". Oxford has it at "work slowly or lazily" with the noun form being "A spell of inactivity or laziness". – Pacerier Sep 30 '15 at 6:10
Related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacker – Pacerier Nov 1 '15 at 22:52

As Hugo said, including the "intending to" makes this a very difficult request; the best I can come up with is a way to express "intentionally doing nothing": vegetating.

I'm gonna go home and vegetate tonight.

To me this carries much more of a connotation of purposefully doing nothing, whereas idling can be merely the result of having nothing to do, rather than a conscious choice not to do something.

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I like this one a lot. – jprete Nov 11 '11 at 16:26
#Winning. That is all. – user11550 Nov 12 '11 at 21:37

I suggest abstain:

to hold oneself back voluntarily, especially from something regarded as improper or unhealthy (usually followed by from ): to abstain from eating meat.

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To abstain from everything. – Kalamane Nov 11 '11 at 15:57

What's the context? The phrase,

I'm sitting it out,

means you won't be taking part in this dance, or metaphorically, won't be taking part in whatever activity, conflict, or dispute is under discussion.

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"Sitting on one's hands" is similar. – Chinasaur Nov 11 '11 at 21:55

How about procrastination?

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I am not sure. Often times procrastination is not intentional. – user6751 Nov 11 '11 at 16:50
Procrastination implies that action will eventually be taken at a later time and that the person is just stalling and avoiding doing anything. I don't think the OP wants to give the impression that they intend to do something later. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 11 '11 at 20:50

Well, analyzing the question, it seems to be a little ambiguous: The other answers' side of view is that you are lazy, but there's another point of view, in which you're passive.

Let me explain better, this is what people got from your question (example):

I prefer not to work; I want to do nothing but sit there and relax.

Many words could fit: loaf, laziness, lethargy (though more commonly used with pathological meaning)...

But the other point is:

He's being hurt, but I intend to do nothing.

In this case, passive or liable could fit well.

And even another point (as you said in parentheses):

I believe this can be done in a way far much easier, and as I intend to do as little work as possible, I'll do it the easier way.

In this case, the best terms would be practical or non-perfectionist.

Watch out for to procrastinate; it isn't the same as do nothing.

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Accidie is my favourite in this area, but it really just means laziness. Anomie (or anomy) is more promising: from the Greek for 'lack of law', it can mean lack of direction, and hence inability to do anything:

We are facing a condition of anomie, of planlessness in living, which is becoming characteristic both of individual lives and of communities.

But it appears to have been infected by sociology:

B. Wootton Social Sci. & Social Pathol. ii. 69 " Sociologists have thought it worth while to coin a special term—‘anomie’—to describe the unorthodox social values, norms and attitudes to which ‘underprivileged’ children may be conditioned."

Besides this, I have a shrewd suspicion that what OP is actually looking for is "intending to do nothing but drink beer" for which the technical term is weekend.

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You should strive to apply the utmost velleity to the situation in hand.

velleity noun — a wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action.

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Where are those citations from? Please tell us the name of where you got those from, and if applicable, also a link. If you are going copy out text verbatim, our Help Center says that you must name where you got the original from, and this post fails to do that. Please see the question on meta entitled “What to do about missing source attributions: Copying, Linking, Attributions, and Plagiarism for discussion on this. – tchrist Jul 7 '14 at 22:31

The OED records nihilagent as an obsolete word for 'a person who does nothing', but there is no corresponding noun, and even nihilagency, I'm afraid, doesn't get across the sense of intention.

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As you admit yourself, nihilagent doesn't have anything to do with intention. The more common idler can at least be converted to an "act" (idleness), but I don't think nihilagency would fly. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 13:16
No argument with that. – Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 13:26
I'm still trying to get my head around whether it makes sense to ask for a word meaning the act of intending to do xxx at all, regardless of what xxx actually is. Perhaps laziness could be paraphrased as intention to do nothing, but it's hard to see how to convert that into an action. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 13:56

If you are having fun doing nothing, dolce far niente is a good candidate.

literally means "sweet doing nothing" = "Delicious idleness". Sheer indulgent relaxation and blissful laziness, being deliciously idle.

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+1, a great term. Welcome to EL&U! I've edited to include the definition and fix the link. – Hugo Nov 13 '11 at 9:59

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting, but the words I immediately thought of were lethargy, apathy, and laziness.

Also, loitering.

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I instantly think of resignation. It's more or less the intent to do nothing.

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Like most of the answers, I'm going to somewhat ignore the "intending" part of the question. I believe the OP may have meant "deliberately" doing nothing, rather than planning to deliberately do nothing in the future.

Therefore, I suggest "meditating", which refers to a variety of practices that are actually probably pretty different from one another, but many of which could be thought of as doing nothing in about as deliberate and focused a way as is possible for doing nothing.

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"Killing time" covers the intent and the action parts, though I have to say that it is hard to make a case for a separate word that means the "act of intending to do X". As Yoda might say, "X or not X, there is no intend (unless X=intend)"

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I think killing time is subtly different: doing either something unimportant or nothing in particular whilst waiting for something to happen. "I had some time to kill whilst waiting for the train, so had a look around to admire the grand Victorian architecture." "I killed time waiting for the gasman by rearranging the cutlery drawer." – Hugo Nov 13 '11 at 10:28

Indolence is a synonym of of idleness or laziness.

Inertia is the resistance or disinclination to move or act.

Faineance means do-nothingness; inactivity; indolence.

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Faineance probably comes the closest. – robrambusch Nov 13 '11 at 1:33


verb: not do something.

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Not quite the meaning the OP has in mind, I think. – Barrie England Nov 13 '11 at 8:34
@ Barrie - Maybe in his practise the OP will find his way to Wu-Wei. Then non-action will be forbearance. – Chris Degnen Nov 13 '11 at 17:57

How is "shiftlessness" or "remissness"?

  • Shiftlessness, noun of adjective shiftless:

    1. a. Lacking ambition or purpose; lazy: a shiftless student.
      b. Characterized by a lack of ambition or energy: studied in a shiftless way.
    2. Lacking resourcefulness or efficiency; incompetent.
  • Remissness, noun of adjective remiss:

    1. Lax in attending to duty; negligent.
    2. Exhibiting carelessness or slackness. See Synonyms at negligent.
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Welcome to E&LU! I've edited your answer to add brief definitions of each word, to make it a more useful answer. Feel free to change it if I've missed what you're after. – Hugo Nov 12 '11 at 21:59

There can not be a word for the act of intending to do nothing, an intention to act is implicit, and to act is to not do nothing, even if the result of that act is nothing.

It is impossible to do nothing, you are always doing something, no matter how usless, be it sleeping, watching paint die, or being dead.

The question is a solophisticaly tautological oxymoron.

You may however prefer indolent or try Benjamin Hoffman's The Tao of Pooh.

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Watching paint die - what a wonderful eggcorn for watching paint dry! – Hugo Nov 13 '11 at 10:16

Quiesce - the first step to quietude. Unlike actually doing nothing, or not doing anything, 'quiesce' signals the act of moving to stillness. To be unambiguous, one could say auto-self-quiesce.

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I am not in the position to re-read the novel Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov right now, but this man's motto seems to coincide with the posed question. It is:

Deliberate passiveness in all aspects of life.

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"... often seen as the ultimate incarnation of the superfluous man ... Oblomov was compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet as answering 'No!' to the question "To be or not to be?" Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed and famously fails to leave his bed for the first 150 pages of the novel." – Hugo Nov 14 '11 at 21:32

protected by tchrist Jul 6 '14 at 23:54

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