• Producing no meaningful outcomes or impact
  • Serving no relevant purpose; useless
  • Lazy or at rest


When a word has multiple pronunciations, there's usually no point in arguing over which are "right" and "wrong." Take a word like otiose: some people are going to go with the more "sophisticated" oh-she-ose, while others stubbornly stick with the more phonetic oh-tee-ose. But although the two camps are as strictly divided as cat versus dog people, any attempts to label one as more correct than the other won't change anything. You're correct whichever you choose, rendering any debate otiose (who saw that coming?).

Like arguing over two common ways of saying the same word, something is otiose if it doesn't serve any useful purpose. Don't expect an otiose invention (like a Useless Box Kit) to contribute anything even slightly meaningful to your life, or otiose dialogue in a movie to be remotely relevant to the plot. Otiose objects may embody the best of intentions, but all they end up doing is pointlessly taking up space or time.

A similar but slightly different application of otiose describes something that doesn't generate any meaningful results. Something that's otiose in this sense might have a purpose, but if it does, it wholly fails in its intent. These unfortunately ineffectual objects (and sometimes people) don't produce anything significant or satisfy any need. Perhaps that's why otiose is also often used to describe someone who's lazy or simply not doing anything - for example, someone who's passing the time playing with a self-closing box.

Example: The otiose bear lay on its back for hours, sleepily basking in the sun.

Example: After watching the bear do nothing but lay on its back for hours, the zoologist realized that his observation of the animal was proving otiose.

Example: In an attempt to rouse the bear, the zoologist tossed a few pebbles in its direction, but even this proved otiose. (We at WinEveryGame do not condone this. Please, do not throw pebbles at bears. In most cases, that would not be otiose.)


The earliest ancestor of otiose is thought to be the Latin noun otium, which describes "leisure" or "freedom from responsibility and obligation" - a very pleasant concept indeed! This word would take on an adjective form in the Latin otiosus, which meant "unoccupied" or "at ease." Otiose would first appear in English at the end of the 18th century as a phrase for "useless or unproductive." The word's further use to mean "lazy" or "languid" had arisen by the mid-19th century.

Derivative Words

Otiosely: This adverb characterizes an action as serving no use or as producing no meaningful effect.

Example: Locked out of his apartment yet again, Johnny banged otiosely on the door, more out of frustration than the hope that it might help.

Example: The zoologist otiosely scribbled on his notepad while watching the otiose bear.

Otiosity: This noun describes a sense of uselessness, futility, or idleness.

Example: Recognizing the otiosity of banging on the locked door of an empty apartment, Johnny decided to call a locksmith.

Example: Given the otiosity of watching an otiose bear, the zoologist decided to take a nap.

In Literature

From Joseph Heller's Catch-22:

Nately felt himself at an embarrassing loss. His own girl sat sprawled out gracelessly on an overstuffed sofa with an expression of otiose boredom. Nately was unnerved by her torpid indifference to him…

Here, the young Nately is flummoxed by his love for a beautiful young prostitute. Unfortunately for Nately, the girl doesn't care a jimp for him, as evidenced by her otiose behavior. One might call his attempts to woo her otiose as well!


  • Otiose lies comatose.
  • Don't bother to propose something otiose.


Idleness, Lazy, Impact, Futility

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of otiose. Did you use otiose in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.