de·​lay | \di-ˈlā, 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



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 \

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


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.


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

As expected, Musk promised the Model 3 would arrive at the end of 2017, though production delays like those that have affected previous Tesla rollouts could push that back into 2018. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Watch Google's Pixel 3 Reveal Event Here, Live," 9 Oct. 2018 Carrie and Marvin had two biological teenagers, both with developmental delays. Yasmine Koenig As Told To Liz Welch, Seventeen, "My Mom Took Me Overseas and Forced Me Into Being a Teen Bride," 26 Sep. 2018 Shook said the delay from when the incident happened, Oct.20, to the indictment, June 7, is unusual, but White had moved in that time and changed his number. Drew Davison, star-telegram, "Cowboys' White faces assault charges for brandishing gun in road rage incident; attorney says he's innocent," 9 July 2018 Pruitt, and more importantly, Trump, treated these announcements and delays like wins. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Why Scott Pruitt lasted so long at the EPA, and what finally did him in," 7 July 2018 One somewhat delicate point the authors emphasize is their belief, despite criticism at the time, that the evacuation in the Everest region didn’t delay rescue efforts elsewhere in Nepal. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "The Devastating Aftermath of an Avalanche on Everest," 6 July 2018 There was a two-hour delay in the all-day test session because of an issue with an artificial chicane designed to slow speeds on the oval’s backstretch. Mike Hembree, USA TODAY, "Charlotte Motor Speedway's 'roval' course remains a mystery after testing," 10 July 2018 Even in an era when there were no electronic-media delays and when the average game was more than an hour faster than today’s (1:47 in 1920 compared to 3:05 in 2017), 51 minutes was a breathtaking pace. Frank Fitzpatrick,, "When and how the Phillies once played nine innings in 51 minutes," 9 July 2018 The second way a confirmation might fail would be a legislative delay. James Pindell,, "These six people could decide whether Trump’s nominee will actually join the Supreme Court," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That refusal had prompted a move to settle for a less expensive, one-tunnel version, a change that Barbre argued would fatally delay the project by triggering another round of environmental reviews. Bettina Boxall,, "Metropolitan Water District again approves delta tunnel funding," 11 July 2018 To cover the overrun, City Light will delay some maintenance projects and repurpose $8.2 million in conservation incentives that no customers signed up for, Thomsen said. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "‘Alarm bell’ over City Light spending as Seattle council considers rate increases," 9 July 2018 The city administration pledged to repair all decrepit buildings on these avenues, but paperwork delayed the fixes until three months before the tournament. Ivan Nechepurenko, New York Times, "Peeking Around Corners in the World Cup’s Provincial Cities," 14 July 2018 Grand Prix delayed other construction until after the Daffodils4Detroit's annual festival ended near the end of April. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "Without Belle Isle, Grand Prix will have to leave metro Detroit," 12 July 2018 So, Dana, the fight really comes down to now, will the hearings begin soon, or will they be delayed until after the midterms? Fox News, "President Trump puts NATO on notice," 12 July 2018 City policy dictates that students with 30 or more absences in a class should fail, and the legislation would have delayed stringent enforcement of the attendance policy until the 2018-2019 academic year. Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post, "In first-ever veto, Bowser denies diplomas to chronically absent students," 12 July 2018 Yingling said, which would mean the effort would be delayed until the next election cycle. Frank Abderholden, Lake County News-Sun, "Lake County Board asks governor to veto bill seeking elected chief assessor," 10 July 2018 Senator Kamala Harris proposed delaying confirmation hearings for Mr Kennedy’s successor until after the next election, which falls in November 2018, just as Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, did with Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016. The Economist, "A court with a solid conservative majority could reshape American life," 5 July 2018

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


see delay entry 2


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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Statistics for delay

Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for delay

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

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More Definitions for delay



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 \

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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Comments on delay

What made you want to look up delay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

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