What an interesting title. Try reading it out loud. Take care in pronouncing each word and every syllable. You will find as I did, that no matter how hard we may try, “idol” and “idle” will sound identical. What is this phenomenon, and what do these two words reveal about our lives?


The words “idol” and “idle” are homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same and yet vary in origin, spelling, or meaning. They are common literary devices that appear among all types of literature. A few examples are as follows:

Common Homophones

The Ultimate Homophone:

There is no greater homophone than life itself. From a philosophical standpoint, the meaning of life varies from individual to individual. Some even argue that there is no point to our existence at all.

Therefore, life is both meaningful and devoid of meaning; It is everything, and it is nothing.

A similar antithetical nature revolves around the word “idle”. When spoken aloud, the pronunciation is as follows: “ai-dl”. This could be one of two words: idle or idol. The first word refers to a lazy individual and the other refers to an individual that is greatly admired.

This homophone is emblematic of the fact that during our lives we can either be idle or idols, but the choice is up to us.

In my mind, an idol does not have to be a Nobel Peace-Prize winner or a celebrity, just someone who is revered by and inspires others. An idol is a role-model.

On the other hand, an idle individual is someone who doesn’t make any positive contributions to society. They prefer to float through life, neither here nor there. One can also be idle in the mind, choosing not to think for themselves. They then become prisoners of society, unquestionably doing whatever they are told.

But it is important to acknowledge that neither “ai-dl” is an innate trait, as it is our attitude towards life that dictates which one we become.

Action and Environment

Firstly, when we as listeners hear the sound “ai-dl” we can distinguish which word is being used from the context given in the sentence. Similarly, the situations we find ourselves in and how we act in these situations reveals the type of person we are choosing to be.

For example, you realize your friend’s substance abuse is having a negative effect on their health. Do you confront them, or simply turn a blind eye?

Or maybe you are walking past an elderly citizen that needs help crossing the street. Do you lend a helping hand or walk by feigning obliviousness?

It is our actions for moments like these that differentiate an idle individual from an idol. No one is ever one hundred percent one or the other. Just like the homophones “idle” and “idol” are both used in the English language, every individual has made choices that reflect both an idol and an idle individual.

But the type of “ai-dl” choices we make consistently reflects who we are choosing to be. 

How We Spend Our Time

Another interesting detail between “idle” and “idol” is the fact that they are the same number of letters. Likewise, every human on the planet has 24 hours each day. No more, and no less. But, it is what each individual does with their time that determines who they become.

Similar to the fact that the spelling of a word determines its meaning. Therefore, the way we use our time determines how we spell out our life.

It is a universal truth that time is the most valuable currency for mankind. How one spends their time is a direct indication of their identity. An idle individual might fill their free-time with hollow hobbies such as watching movies or scrolling through Instagram. An idol plans their time accordingly, sectioning out when they will have entertainment, when they will rest, when they will work on themselves, and when they will work on helping others.

The key is proper planning and balance. How you use your free-time is a personal choice, a choice that is fundamental to who you end up being in this life.

Details, Details, Details…

Although all humans share the same ancestors, everyone is different because it is the details that define us.

I see a similar beauty in homophones. The speaker holds all the power. They choose which word they are referring to even though it sounds identical to another. Based on certain details, such as the context and spelling, the true meaning is derived.

We as individuals hold the power to shape ourselves to become whoever we wish to be. Sometimes we feel like certain things are out of control, but our being idols or idle individuals is a personal choice. As the homophone “idle” reminds us, we can all go from idle individuals to idols by putting ourselves in the right contexts and using our time wisely.

So, which “ai-dl” do you want to be?

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