When I heard an NPR reporter use the expression “passive indolence,” I decided I’d better look up the word because I thought indolent included the idea of passivity. I couldn’t imagine, for example, talking about “active indolence.”
The noun indolence has traveled a long way from its original meaning of “freedom from pain.”
The Latin noun indolentia means “freedom from pain.” The abstract noun came from the Latin verb dolere, “to be pained” and the negative prefix in, “not.” Indolentia was a state of not being in pain.
In modern medical usage, indolence and the adjective indolent retain the meaning of absence of pain:
indolent: causing little pain; slow growing.
Examples of indolent and indolence in the context of pathology:
indolent ulcers occur on the upper lip of cats at almost any age.
Indolent lymphomas are usually not considered curable because the cancer grows too slowly to be targeted accurately by most modern treatments.
Prostate Cancer Indolence vs Aggressiveness
Progress in the Treatment of Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)
In general usage, however, indolence means, “the disposition to avoid trouble; love of ease.”
Indolent is also a synonym for lazy.
In the sense of taking things easy or giving oneself over to relaxation, indolence is not necessarily a bad thing. Hard-working people deserve occasional spells of indolence: lying on the beach or drowsing in a hammock on a pleasant afternoon.
It is when people habitually avoid their responsibilities that indolence becomes a vice.
the arrogance of orthodox economists, and the indolence of mainstream journalists.
the authorities have already been breaking [the law] through their incapacity or their indolence in the face of the crisis of insecurity.
China Punishes 20,000 Officials For Waste, Mediocrity, Indolence
Mitt Romney: ‘“Nonworking parents” raise “indolent and unproductive” kids.
Gordon slams indolent congressmen for lack of quorum in the House
Indolence and indolent are useful words to describe laziness and irresponsibility, but an expression like “passive indolence” seems pleonastic.