to talk or act foolishly
to waste time : trifle, fool
“La Queue exclaimed that they were just being lazy and footling about.” — From Douglas Parmée’s 1984 translation of Émile Zola’s story “Coqueville on the Spree” (originally published in 1907)
“Well, we could not possibly intervene ourselves. We are far too busy footling about online, bemoaning how the country has gone to the dogs.” — From an article by Will Batchelor in the Liverpool Post (United Kingdom), March 14, 2013
“Footle” may be an alteration of “footer,” which an 1847 dictionary of archaic and provincial words says is a verb meaning “to idle.” That word is connected with “fouter” (also spelled “foutra”), a word describing something of little value or someone worthless or bungling. But the link between “footle” and “footer” is speculative. What we can say with confidence is that “footle” is a verb of 19th century origin that—along with the adjective “footling” (as in “a footling amateur”)—is still apt when discussing foolish or trifling people or things.