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Woolgathering

Woolgathering is indulging in idle daydreaming, contemplating things without purpose, absentmindedness. The term woolgathering first appeared in the 1500s to mean the literal act of gathering sheep wool that has caught on bushes, fences, etc. This activity does not take much brainpower and looks like seemingly aimless wandering, which has translated into a figurative meaning of the word woolgathering. Woolgathering is a noun, related words are the noun woolgatherer and the verb forms woolgather, woolgathers, woolgathered, woolgathering. Woolgathering is correctly rendered as one word, though it is occasionally found in the hyphenated form, wool-gathering. Even though woolgathering is a bygone task, it lives on in the word woolgathering.


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Examples

But he wasn’t just woolgathering, he says. “I was thinking about songs.” (The Los Angeles Times)

Thirteen House members could have stood and demanded a real vote, but some strange paralysis had stricken all but a couple, and several who were standing in the back of the chamber, perhaps woolgathering about where lobbyists would take them to lunch after the vote, promptly sat down so they wouldn’t be mistaken as wanting any ethics reform or transparency. (The Clarion-Ledger)

In my original woolgathering preparatory to crafting a Memorial Day column, which I have never before attempted, I recalled some great words in American history that have become so iconic of our nation. (The Reno Gazette-Journal)

Given that it has taken long decades to finally achieve near-universal-health-insurance coverage, shifting focus to fight another huge health care battle seems like textbook example of left-wing woolgathering. (The Boston Globe)

I’m trying to woolgather through life, letting my soul guide me. (The St. Augustine Record)

If that sounds a bit far-fetched or abstract, “What Technology Wants” will not persuade you with airtight reasoning and close argument—Mr. Kelly, a former editor of Wired magazine, rambles when he should hold a straight line and woolgathers when he should marshal his facts. (The Wall Street Journal)

 

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