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Aside from pastime, what is a word or phrase that can be used to describe an activity that is not pleasurable and used only as a diversion while letting time pass?

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Maybe time killer or distraction will work. I know that TV fills that role for me. –  user21497 Jan 8 '13 at 13:22
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Killing time works for me, too. Or marking time. Watching the grass grow. Tracing cracks in the ceiling. There was a whole song about this back in the 60s. –  StoneyB Jan 8 '13 at 13:39
    
idling works for me –  mplungjan Jan 8 '13 at 13:45
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StackOverflow and its many cousins. –  Robusto Jan 8 '13 at 14:19
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@Robusto Genius. Pure ingenuity. –  brain56 Jan 8 '13 at 17:28
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The noun "pastime" actually describes activity that is pleasurable.

pastime

an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby: his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf.

To describe an activity that is used only as a diversion while letting time pass, you can say you are doing something to kill time.

kill time

to do something which is not very useful or interesting while you are waiting for time to pass

Or you can just say you are idling, or, lollygagging.

lollygag

spend time aimlessly: he sends her to Arizona every January to lollygag in the sun.

Personally I don't think there is any word that describes an activity which is not pleasurable and used only as a diversion while letting time pass as when you want to kill time, you don't do things that are particularly not pleasurable, but things that have no purpose.

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My suggestions:

Idling

Twiddling your thumbs

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Nouns synonymous with pastime are few in number in English. Besides lollygag, the other suggestions here seem to be verbs. If you need a noun, I wonder if timekill or time-kill would work. In Indian English, time pass is a common noun.

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