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verb \ˈwāt\

Simple Definition of wait

  • : to stay in a place until an expected event happens, until someone arrives, until it is your turn to do something, etc.

  • : to not do something until something else happens

  • : to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon

Full Definition of wait

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to stay in place in expectation of :  await <waited the result of the advertisement — W. M. Thackeray> <wait your turn>

  3. 2 :  to delay serving (a meal)

  4. 3 :  to serve as waiter for <wait tables>

  5. intransitive verb
  6. 1 a :  to remain stationary in readiness or expectation <wait for a train> b :  to pause for another to catch up —usually used with up

  7. 2 a :  to look forward expectantly <just waiting to see his rival lose> b :  to hold back expectantly <waiting for a chance to strike>

  8. 3 :  to serve at meals —usually used in such phrases as wait on tables or wait on table

  9. 4 a :  to be ready and available <slippers waiting by the bed> b :  to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized <the chores can wait>

wait on also wait upon
  1. 1 a :  to attend as a servant b :  to supply the wants of :  serve

  2. 2 :  to make a formal call on

  3. 3 :  to wait for

wait up
  1. :  to delay going to bed :  stay up

Usage Discussion of wait

American dialectologists have evidence showing wait on (sense 3) to be more a Southern than a Northern form in speech. Handbook writers universally denigrate wait on and prescribe wait for in writing. Our evidence from printed sources does not show a regional preference; it does show that the handbooks' advice is not based on current usage <settlement of the big problems still waited on Russia — Time> <I couldn't make out … whether Harper was waiting on me for approval — E. B. White> <the staggering bill that waited on them at the white commissary downtown — Maya Angelou>. One reason for the continuing use of wait on may lie in its being able to suggest protracted or irritating waits better than wait for <for two days I've been waiting on weather — Charles A. Lindbergh> <the boredom of black Africans sitting there, waiting on the whims of a colonial bureaucracy — Vincent Canby> <doesn't care to sit around waiting on a House that's virtually paralyzed — Glenn A. Briere>. Wait on is less common than wait for, but if it seems natural, there is no reason to avoid it.

Examples of wait

  1. I hate waiting in long lines.

  2. They waited at the train station together.

  3. You should have waited a little longer. He showed up right after you left.

  4. I don't have time to wait around. If he's not here in five minutes, I'm leaving.

  5. She waited behind after class to talk to the professor.

  6. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. How may I help you?

  7. I waited and waited but he never showed up.

  8. Wait! Don't start the engine yet.

  9. We waited for the sun to set before starting the fire.

  10. I know she was happy when I lost my job. She was waiting to see me fail.

Origin of wait

Middle English, from Anglo-French waiter, guaiter to watch over, await, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch, Old English wæccan to watch — more at wake

First Known Use: 14th century




Simple Definition of wait

  • : a period of time when you must wait

Full Definition of wait

  1. 1 a :  a hidden or concealed position —used chiefly in the expression lie in wait b :  a state or attitude of watchfulness and expectancy <anchored in wait for early morning fishing — Fred Zimmer>

  2. 2 a :  one of a band of public musicians in England employed to play for processions or public entertainments b (1) :  one of a group who serenade for gratuities especially at the Christmas season (2) :  a piece of music by such a group

  3. 3 :  an act or period of waiting <a long wait in line>

Examples of wait

  1. <there was a long wait for the manager to come and help us>

Origin of wait

Middle English waite watchman, observation, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch

First Known Use: 14th century

WAIT Defined for Kids



verb \ˈwāt\

Definition of wait


  1. 1 :  to stay in a place looking forward to something that is expected to happen <Denmark's fishermen didn't wait for sunny days to take their boats out … — Lois Lowry, Number the Stars>

  2. 2 :  to stop moving or doing something <Wait at the door.> <Wait a second—I have a better idea.>

  3. 3 :  to remain not done or dealt with <The chore can wait.> <There's a package waiting for you.>

  4. 4 :  to serve food as a waiter or waitress




Definition of wait

  1. 1 :  an act or period of waiting <We had a long wait.>

  2. 2 :  a hidden place from which a surprise attack can be made Hint: This sense of wait is usually used in the expression lie in wait.

Seen and Heard

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February 7, 2016

a slight offense

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