Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.


idle hands are the devil’s tools

idle hands are the devil’s tools

or idle hands are the devil’s workshop


  • if you have nothing to do, you are likely to do some mischief
  • an idle person is likely to do something evil
  • people are more likely to do something bad and get into trouble when they have nothing to do

Example Sentences

  1. They kids should be kept busy while you are away; idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  2. I don’t like the look the man standing outside doing nothing. Idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  3. We should find something useful for Amy to do during the afternoon. Idle hands are the devil’s tools.
  4. Why are you wasting your time doing nothing? Don’t you know, idle hands are the devil’s tools.

The origin of the phrase is not clear, however, it is believed to be an ancient one with its roots in the Bible. Though the phrase does not appear in the Bible, the message conveyed by it is present. A saying by St Jerome (347 – 420 AD) in Latin has a similar meaning. In English, it can be traced back to at least the 12th century when Chaucer referred to idle hands being devil’s tools.

A similar phrase also exists, which says “an idle mind or brain is a devil’s workshop”.

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