1 of 2


de·​lay di-ˈlā How to pronounce delay (audio)
: the act of postponing, hindering, or causing something to occur more slowly than normal : the state of being delayed
get started without delay
: an instance of being delayed
apologized for the delay
a rain delay
: the time during which something is delayed
waited out a delay of 30 minutes


2 of 2


delayed; delaying; delays

transitive verb

: put off, postpone
delay a departure
They're delaying marriage or, increasingly, not getting married at all …Irin Carmon
: 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
: 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
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.

treatment that retards tumor growth

slow and slacken also imply a reduction of speed, slow often suggesting deliberate intention

she closed her eyes and slowed her breathing

, 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.
Recent Examples on the Web
After a more than one-hour-long delay due to a mass of non-ticket holders forcing themselves into the stadium on Sunday (July 14), the 2024 Copa America final match — where Argentina and Colombia face each other on the field for the championship trophy — officially began at 9:15 p.m. ET. Jessica Roiz, Billboard, 15 July 2024 Executives will also likely be asked about expansion plans as well as ongoing aircraft delivery delays from Boeing and Airbus that have hindered capacity. Fred Imbert, CNBC, 14 July 2024
The results of those 650 counts won’t be confirmed until the early hours of tomorrow morning, with some tight races or races in remote parts of the country delayed until much later that day. NBC News, 4 July 2024 While institutional lenders are entitled to the protection of their contractual and legal rights, no one is entitled to unreasonably delay court proceedings, especially when doing so has real world consequences against innocent parties. Scott R. Shapiro, Sun Sentinel, 4 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for delay 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'delay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use


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


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

Time Traveler
The first known use of delay was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near delay

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
de·​lay di-ˈlā How to pronounce delay (audio)
: the act of delaying : the state of being delayed
start without delay
: the time during which something is delayed
a delay of 30 minutes


2 of 2 verb
: postpone, put off
delay a trip
: to stop, detain, or hinder for a time
delayed by a storm
: to move or act slowly
delayer noun

Biographical Definition


biographical name

De·​Lay di-ˈlā How to pronounce DeLay (audio)
Thomas (Dale) 1947–     American politician

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