busy (adj.)

Old English bisig "careful, anxious," later "continually employed or occupied, in constant or energetic action" cognate with Old Dutch bezich, Low German besig, but having no known connection with any other Germanic or Indo-European language. Still pronounced as in Middle English, but for some unclear reason the spelling shifted to -u- in 15c.

The notion of "anxiousness" has drained from the word since Middle English. Often in a bad sense in early Modern English, "prying, meddlesome, active in that which does not concern one" (preserved in busybody). The word was a euphemism for "sexually active" in 17c. Of telephone lines, 1884. Of display work, "excessively detailed, visually cluttered," 1903.

busy (v.)

late Old English bisgian, "attend to, be concerned with, be diligent," from the source of busy (adj.). From late 14c. as "keep engaged, make or keep busy." Related: Busied; busying.

updated on September 11, 2017

Definitions of busy from WordNet
busy (adj.)
(of facilities such as telephones or lavatories) unavailable for use by anyone else or indicating unavailability; (`engaged' is a British term for a busy telephone line);
kept getting a busy signal
her line is busy
Synonyms: engaged / in use
busy (adj.)
actively or fully engaged or occupied;
busy with her work
a busy man
too busy to eat lunch
busy (adj.)
overcrowded or cluttered with detail;
a busy painting
Synonyms: fussy
busy (adj.)
intrusive in a meddling or offensive manner;
busy about other people's business
Synonyms: interfering / meddlesome / meddling / officious / busybodied
busy (adj.)
crowded with or characterized by much activity;
a busy street
a busy life
a busy seaport
a very busy week
busy (v.)
keep busy with;
Synonyms: occupy
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.