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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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Here are seven home improvement ideas to spruce up your space while dealing with renovation delays. Cori Sears, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 Sep. 2023 Another premium credit card, The Platinum Card from American Express, includes trip cancellation, interruption, and trip delay insurance. Katie Seemann, Travel + Leisure, 25 Sep. 2023 An audit released in July found that delays in city hiring were largely the result of individual departments — not the Personnel Department or the volunteer commissioners who oversee it. Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Sep. 2023 Up to $100 per day for up to three days in baggage delay insurance to cover essential items in the event that your baggage is delayed by more than 12 hours. Ben Luthi,, 23 Sep. 2023 The ongoing strikes have shut down most television and film production for months, resulting in thousands of people out of work and the delay of many films and TV shows that were both in the middle of and/or slated to begin filming. Alli Rosenbloom, CNN, 23 Sep. 2023 And, with days until the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, retires, the Senate overcame GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville’s months-long delay on military promotions and confirmed General Charles Q. Brown Jr. to fill the U.S. military’s top job. The Editors, The Atlantic, 23 Sep. 2023 Dorothy instilled a lifetime love of the pinstripes in her family — and during a rain delay in October 2022, Jalen excitedly visited his uncle’s display in the Yankee Museum. Emily Krauser, Peoplemag, 23 Sep. 2023 Also, Limp proved his first point with an uncomfortable silence about the length of an Alexa delay, which was pretty great. Wes Davis, The Verge, 21 Sep. 2023
As states lower the certification standards to become a teacher, education experts worry these tactics could delay students’ recovery from pandemic learning loss. Gabe Cohen, CNN, 11 Sep. 2023 They are done to delay relapse after patients have already been treated with other drugs to bring their blood cancer into remission. Robert Weisman,, 11 Sep. 2023 By November 2020, Shine Distillery had already been seen its opening delayed by a federal government shutdown, then faced a lengthy closure during Oregon’s first indoor dining ban. Mrussell, oregonlive, 11 Sep. 2023 For example, nearly 16,000 comments were solicited against a new interpretation of Title IX that was later delayed. Haisten Willis, Washington Examiner, 11 Sep. 2023 It was scheduled for 4:05 p.m. but delayed by weather. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 10 Sep. 2023 Here are five thoughts from Week 3 of the 2023 Texas high school football season: Weather ends a dozen games early With storms passing through the Dallas north suburbs after 8 p.m. Friday evening, dozens of games in the area were delayed due to lightning. Lia Assimakopoulos, Dallas News, 9 Sep. 2023 The match was delayed for nearly an hour after four spectators protested against climate change. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 9 Sep. 2023 Some defendants want an early trial and some want to move the case to federal court, while Trump will likely seek to delay everything until after Election Day on Nov. 5, 2024. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

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 28 Sep. 2023.

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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