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?

  • 1
    Maybe time killer or distraction will work. I know that TV fills that role for me.
    – user21497
    Jan 8, 2013 at 13:22
  • 1
    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. Jan 8, 2013 at 13:39
  • idling works for me
    – mplungjan
    Jan 8, 2013 at 13:45
  • 4
    StackOverflow and its many cousins.
    – Robusto
    Jan 8, 2013 at 14:19
  • 1
    @Robusto Genius. Pure ingenuity.
    – brain56
    Jan 8, 2013 at 17:28

4 Answers 4


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


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.


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.


My suggestions:


Twiddling your thumbs


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.


A phrase I hear all the time in the software industry is a "time suck". Especially in reference to meetings, which are also frequently referred to as "time wasters" which is essentially the same thing, time suck just sounds better.

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