definition of busyness by The Free Dictionary

Also found in: Thesaurus, Financial, Idioms.


occupied with meaningless activity; the quality of being busy: Sometimes I get tired of all this busyness.

Not to be confused with:

business – an occupation or trade; a concern: That’s none of your business.; commerce, company: My business is doing very well.



adj. bus·i·er, bus·i·est

1. Engaged in activity, as work; occupied. See Synonyms at active.

2. Characterized by or sustaining much activity: a busy morning; a busy street.

3. Being a busybody; meddlesome; prying.

4. Being in use, as a telephone line.

5. Cluttered with detail to the point of being distracting: a busy design.

tr.v. bus·ied, bus·y·ing, bus·ies

To make busy; occupy: busied myself preparing my tax return.

[Middle English bisi, busi, from Old English bysig.]

bus′i·ly adv.

bus′y·ness n.


 of ferrets; ferrets collectivelyBk. of St. Albans, 1486.




  1. Busier than a cat covering shit on a marble slab —American colloquialism
  2. Busier than a Gulag gravedigger —Joseph Wambaugh
  3. Bustled about like so many ants roused by the approach of a foe —J. Hampden Porte

    Ants rank with bees as a means to describe busyness. In modern day usage and literature the above is usually shortened; for example, “Busy as an ant” used by Ogden Nash in his poem Children.

  4. (I’ve been) busy as a bartender on Saturday night —Irwin Shaw
  5. Busy as a bee —Geoffrey Chaucer

    Chaucer’s old English version of what has become a commonly used expression read “Bisy as bees ben they.”

  6. Busy as a dog with fleas —Anon
  7. Busy as a fiddler’s elbow —Harry Prince
  8. Busy as a hen with one chicken —John Ray’s Proverbs

    To strengthen the impact of the simile there’s, “Busy as a hen with ten chickens” and “As a hen with fifteen chickens” attributed to James Howell and “Busy as a hen with fifteen chickens in a barnyard.”

  9. Busy as an oven at Christmas —Michael Denham
  10. Busy as ants in a breadbox —Anon
  11. (I am) busy as a one-armed paperhanger with the itch —American colloquialism

    This is often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt who used it in a letter to his daughter. Some extensions on the one-armed paperhanger image include: “Busy as a one-armed paper-hanger with the hives” (one of many common expressions in Carl Sandburg’s The People, Yes), “Busy as a one-armed paperhanger with the seven-year itch” (H. W. Thompson, Body, Boots and Britches) and “Busy as a one-armed paper-hanger with the nettle rash” (O. Henry, The Ethics of a Pig).

  12. Busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest all week long —Pat Conroy
  13. Busy as a pair of lizards on a warm brick —James Cain
  14. Busy as a ticking clock —Anon
  15. (Birds shrill and musical,) busy as bullets —John Farris
  16. Busy as catbirds —Hilary Masters
  17. Busy as jumper cables at a Mexican funeral —Thomas Zigal
  18. Busy as maggots —Marge Piercy
  19. Busy as the day is long —Vincent Stuckey Lean
  20. Busy as the devil in a gale of wind —Walter Scott
  21. Get busy like a bomb —Erich Maria Remarque
  22. Humming like a hive —John Gardner
  23. one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand —Charlotte Brontë

    See Also: SPEED

  24. [Being Secretary of Defense] is like getting a shave and having your appendix out at the same time —Robert Lovett, Saturday Evening Post, May 28, 1960
  25. Like a squirrel in a cage, always in action —Aphra Behn
  26. Like the bee, we should make our industry our amusement —Oliver Goldsmith

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:

Noun 1. busyness - the state of being or appearing to be actively engaged in an activitybusyness – the state of being or appearing to be actively engaged in an activity; “they manifested all the busyness of a pack of beavers”; “there is a constant hum of military preparation”

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