You know, young girls often do this.

They're wandering around a mall or a supermarket, seeing cute stuff, asking about the prices of things, doing chit-chat with friends, having lunch together with girl friends too, but end up buying literally nothing.

Is there a single English word that means this kind of activity? I can only think of: hang out.

Or can shopping also mean "buying nothing"?

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    Window shopping? – Roaring Fish Nov 3 '13 at 14:19
  • I googled and found that it is the activity of looking at the goods displayed in shop windows, esp. without intending to buy anything. While in my question, it's in a bit broader concept, isn't it? Any other suggestion? – Safira Nov 3 '13 at 14:22
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    I suppose it still works, though a lot of franchises in malls tend to be unfenestrated. Here's a more relevant definition: "Window shopping" is a term referring to the browsing of goods by a consumer with no intent to purchase, either as a recreational activity or to plan a later purchase. [Wikipedia] Fourth-wall shopping? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 3 '13 at 14:22
  • @EdwinAshworth: Ah, thanks. (y) About fourth-wall shopping, I googled and found nothing about it. Is that a slang? What does it mean, fourth-wall? – Safira Nov 3 '13 at 14:27
  • Sorry, Safira – I was just referring to another thread. Don't expect anyone to have met the term - I doubt that it's ever been used before. The 'fourth wall' is the imaginary one between the actors on a traditional stage and the audience. Or, by extension, between the printed material of a novel, and the reader - etc. 'Breaking' it roughly means getting the audience more than passively involved, so that the fictional material and the audience are no longer totally isolated from each other. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 3 '13 at 15:03
  • Browsing - Surveying goods for sale in a leisurely and casual way.

  • Perusing - Examining carefully or at length.

  • Window Shopping - The activity of looking at goods displayed in shop windows, especially without intending to buy anything.

These could all apply to your situation, depending on what you want to focus on and portray.


I don't think browsing, perusing, or window shopping really do the trick here, because they all imply that the girls are focused on the merchandise, even if they do not intend to buy anything. I'm a child of the 1960s in the US, and as such, I would use the phrase "hanging out." These girls are hanging out at the mall. As I say, that's a very 1960s American youth English kind of phrase, and I cannot guarantee that it translates well to other times or places. I would look it up in the OED and see if there are recent usage examples.

  • Uhm, are you saying that my thought hang out is correct then? – Safira Nov 3 '13 at 16:04
  • Oh, yes...I need to get better and reading the whole question! I did not even see that part. Yes, absolutely, your thought "hang out" is perfect! – Michael Broder Nov 3 '13 at 16:58
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    Well, Dominic, I see what you mean, but I do not quite agree. My answer is that the questioner's proposed usage, "hang out," is correct. – Michael Broder Nov 3 '13 at 17:16
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    True, the first part of this answer could have been left as a comment. I didn't read it as an outright rejection of your answer, though, I felt your answer was being used as a springboard. To paraphrase: "Window-shopping addresses the part about looking at merchandise, but the O.P. seems to be asking about more – not just perusing the aisles, but walking from store to store, eating, etc." This is a great example of an ELU question where the whole group of answers is worth more than the sum of the parts. Yes, we can shop and buy nothing, esp. when we meander, windowshop, and hang out. :^) – J.R. Nov 4 '13 at 1:33
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    @Safira - It means all the answers satisfy your request in one way or another, but they emphasize different parts of your request. A question like yours is unlikely to have one correct answer, or a single legitimate answer. The Stack Exchange isn't set up to let you choose more than one answer, so the best you can do is upvote all of them, and choose one. If you want more advice about what to do next, I suggest reading through the suggestions at this meta post. – J.R. Nov 4 '13 at 9:11

Pottering is a good one: occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant way.

"I'm quite happy just to potter about by myself here."

  • I hadn't heard this variant of putter so I initially assumed it was a typo. Interesting to learn this – thanks for the post! – J.R. Nov 4 '13 at 13:17
  • I know, it's really fascinating to learn the differences between US and UK language. I actually live in Australia, but I abide by Uk English rules. – Maximilian Nov 17 '13 at 10:23


the action or activity of passing time in a shopping mall (oxforddictionaries.com)

going to the mall with a large group of people with no intention of buying anything. (urbandictionary.com)


Try Meandering:

following a winding course.

as in:

The girls meandered through the mall, chatting and window shopping, without buying a thing.

  • "Meander" is nice. For that matter, "wander" is nice. But I think the OP was looking for an expression, like "hanging out," that suggests more-or-less innocent loitering, using the mall as a social gathering location rather than as a place to buy anything. – Michael Broder Nov 3 '13 at 19:44
  • @Safira - The word is sometimes used to describe a river that isn't straight, and is also used to describe people that seem to be wandering around without much direction or purpose. It's not all that uncommon a word – here are some examples. – J.R. Nov 4 '13 at 13:13
  • The word meander means to weave left and right sporadically. If you meandered through the mall, you'd look like you were drunk. – Carl Smith Aug 19 '15 at 13:25

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