de·​lay | \ di-ˈlā How to pronounce delay (audio) , dē- \

Definition of delay

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : the act of postponing, hindering, or causing something to occur more slowly than normal : the state of being delayed get started without delay
b : an instance of being delayed apologized for the delay a rain delay
2 : the time during which something is delayed waited out a delay of 30 minutes


delayed; delaying; delays

Definition of delay (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : put off, postpone delay a departure They're delaying marriage or, increasingly, not getting married at all …— Irin Carmon
2 : to stop, detain, or hinder for a time the mails were delayed by heavy snows … issued executive orders delaying the release of records from Ronald Reagan's administration …Editor & Publisher
3 : to cause to be slower or to occur more slowly than normal delay a child's development … a drug that not only can extend life by delaying the onset of aging-related diseases …— Bill Gifford

intransitive verb

: to move or act slowly This offer ends soon, so don't delay. delayed in responding to my message also : to cause delay


biographical name
De·​Lay | \ di-ˈlā How to pronounce DeLay (audio) \

Definition of DeLay (Entry 3 of 3)

Thomas (Dale) 1947–     American politician

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Other Words from delay


delayer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for delay


delay, retard, slow, slacken, detain mean to cause to be late or behind in movement or progress. delay implies a holding back, usually by interference, from completion or arrival. bad weather delayed our arrival retard suggests reduction of speed without actual stopping. language barriers retarded their progress slow and slacken also imply a reduction of speed, slow often suggesting deliberate intention medication slowed the patient's heart rate , slacken an easing up or relaxing of power or effort. on hot days runners slacken their pace detain implies a holding back beyond a reasonable or appointed time. unexpected business had detained her

delay, procrastinate, lag, loiter, dawdle, dally mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. delay usually implies a putting off of something (such as a beginning or departure). we cannot delay any longer procrastinate implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy. procrastinates about making decisions lag implies failure to maintain a speed set by others. lagging behind in technology loiter and dawdle imply delay while in progress, especially in walking, but dawdle more clearly suggests an aimless wasting of time. loitered at several store windows children dawdling on their way home from school dally suggests delay through trifling or vacillation when promptness is necessary. stop dallying and get to work

Examples of delay in a Sentence

Noun Do you know what's causing the delay? a number of flight delays After months of delay, construction on the new school began. Airline travelers are experiencing delays of up to three hours. Verb The doctor wants to delay surgery for a few weeks. She's planning to delay her retirement. He delayed too long, and now it's too late. “Don't delay! Sale ends Saturday.” Production problems delayed the introduction of the new model by several months.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After a 35-minute delay, Biden addressed the press and continued his attacks on Trump. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Another day, another strategy: Biden scrambles on his messaging," 25 Mar. 2020 The money would, after a delay, still find its way into the Social Security fund. Dave Lieber, Dallas News, "Will a $1 trillion bailout bring us closer to the end of Social Security?," 20 Mar. 2020 After a temporary delay, protesters succeeded in making it past the police roadblock to eventually gather outside the High Court and the Knesset. Oren Liebermann And Andrew Carey, CNN, "Warnings over harm to Israel's 'democratic system' amid coronavirus crisis," 20 Mar. 2020 After delays in rolling out widespread testing for the virus, Mr. Trump also announced that the country is ramping up capacity to test more people, a critical step to help protect health care workers and the public. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Doctor who moved into his garage to protect newborn and family receives praise from Obama," 20 Mar. 2020 The original cast of Friends confirmed in February that a reunion was officially happening after several delays. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, ""Friends" Reunion Special Delayed Due to Coronavirus," 19 Mar. 2020 After the delays, humble pop-ups and years of paying food-biz dues in cities like Cleveland, finally seeing Phat Sammy’s open, during a hush-hush March 17 opening, was joyous for Esterly. Matt Wake |, al, "Downtown Huntsville’s most colorful joint yet, now open," 18 Mar. 2020 The Jazz's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed after a delay following pregame warm-ups. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "Mark Cuban is as stunned as anyone that the NBA season is suspended," 12 Mar. 2020 After a delay of about a half-hour, the crowd was told that the game had been postponed. Mike Finger,, "In times like these, sports can’t offer escape," 11 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There’s another kind of political fallout looming in Poland, where pressure is growing on the ruling party to delay the May 10 presidential election. Boris Groendahl,, "Europe’s lockdown gets tighter as Spain’s death toll mounts," 30 Mar. 2020 But customers are quickly finding that grocers can’t keep up with the sudden and intense online demand, leaving many frustrated with canceled or delayed deliveries. Shwanika Narayan,, "Coronavirus: Online grocery deliveries are buckling under intense demand," 27 Mar. 2020 Dozens of Chown Hardware’s orders have been cancelled or delayed. oregonlive, "Coronavirus in Oregon: Businesses lobby to delay, tweak new school tax," 27 Mar. 2020 Although schools have been closed for a month and the government has requested that large sports and cultural events be canceled or delayed, the rest of life has returned to normal. Motoko Rich, New York Times, "Japan’s Virus Success Has Puzzled the World. Is Its Luck Running Out?," 26 Mar. 2020 But with sports and other events canceled and travel restrictions and recommendations in place, Sky Harbor's website for cancellations and delays showed that more than 360 flights on Tuesday had been canceled and 19 were delayed. Melissa Yeager, azcentral, "Coronavirus in Arizona: Massive flight cancellations at Phoenix airport as demand falls," 24 Mar. 2020 Pressure is mounting to cancel or delay the event due to the risks of COVID-19, which has killed more than 15,000 people worldwide as of March 23. Madeline Roache, Time, "Have the Olympics Ever Been Canceled? Here's the History," 23 Mar. 2020 As the coronavirus outbreak has turned into a global pandemic, Olympic qualifying matches have been cancelled or delayed while national teams have attempted to maintain training regimens under isolation. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "As 2 nations boycott, Japan finally admits coronavirus might disrupt Tokyo 2020 Olympics," 23 Mar. 2020 Such grim projections have led to much tougher measures to delay the spread of the virus. The Economist, "The week in charts The lockdown goes viral," 20 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'delay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of delay


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for delay

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French delaier, from de- + laier to leave, from lai-, present and future stem of lesser, laisser to leave, from Latin laxare to slacken, from laxus loose — more at slack

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Time Traveler for delay

Time Traveler

The first known use of delay was in the 13th century

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Statistics for delay

Last Updated

1 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for delay


How to pronounce DeLay (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of delay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a situation in which something happens later than it should
: the amount of time that you must wait for something that is late



English Language Learners Definition of delay (Entry 2 of 2)

: to wait until later to do something : to make something happen later
: to make (something or someone) late : to make (something or someone) take longer than expected or planned


de·​lay | \ di-ˈlā How to pronounce delay (audio) \

Kids Definition of delay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a putting off of something We began without delay.
2 : the time during which something is delayed We will have a delay of 30 minutes.


delayed; delaying

Kids Definition of delay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to put off Because of the baseball schedule, Stanley's trial was delayed several months.— Louis Sachar, Holes
2 : to stop or prevent for a time Bad weather delayed our flight.
3 : to move or act slowly We cannot delay any longer.

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More from Merriam-Webster on delay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with delay

Spanish Central: Translation of delay

Nglish: Translation of delay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delay for Arabic Speakers

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