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 That includes the delay of Mardi Gras that was supposed to debut this year. Richard Tribou,, "Carnival Cruise Line announces 2 more ships leaving fleet," 16 Sep. 2020 As a result of the lost challenge, the Stars were assessed a two-minute delay of game penalty. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "‘We don’t win it without his play’: 38 saves from Anton Khudobin propel Stars to Game 3 win," 11 Sep. 2020 Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) sent a letter Tuesday to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and the 14 university presidents to reconsider its delay of college football. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan legislators, other lawmakers push Big Ten to play football this fall," 8 Sep. 2020 Cruise reportedly rented the ships not only to prevent further delay of filming, but to also reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, "Tom Cruise Continues Filming Next 'Mission Impossible' by Renting Out Empty Cruise Ships," 3 Sep. 2020 Monday's announcement marked the third delay of the start of the school year for the state's largest public school system. Faimon Roberts,, "With an eye on Tropical Storm Laura, Jefferson Parish schools delay first day again for students," 24 Aug. 2020 The runoff, initially too close to call, ended narrowly in Gonzales’ favorafter an additional delay of three weeks as the votes were tallied. Cayla Harris,, "Tony Gonzales wins GOP nomination in San Antonio-area congressional district," 21 Aug. 2020 That could mean a regular delay of up to eight days from prior elections. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin and other states sue over mail slowdown as postmaster general backs off of changes that could affect absentee ballot delivery," 18 Aug. 2020 The bureau announced a new plan to finish the count on Oct. 31 and asked Congress to approve a four-month delay of the delivery date, to April 30, 2021. Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, "Civil rights groups, cities sue Trump administration over new census deadline," 18 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But the Rosh Hashanah holiday started Friday night, which could delay a ceremony until Monday. Tribune News Service, al, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery alongside late husband," 19 Sep. 2020 The devastating impact of COVID-19 on the number of airline passengers using O’Hare International Airport could delay completion of the massive airport terminal modernization project, city officials acknowledge in a recent document. John Byrne,, "City O’Hare debt document indicates COVID-19 could delay huge airport terminal revamp," 18 Sep. 2020 More voters than usual plan to vote by mail because of concerns that pulling the lever in person might expose them to the coronavirus, a development that could delay the results of the election for days or even weeks. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Democrats laud Michigan court ruling that eases restrictions on mail balloting," 18 Sep. 2020 During these past few months, however, pouring any milk down the drain has felt extravagantly wasteful, especially if using it could delay the next grocery trip by another day or two. Stephanie Loomis Pappas, Bon Appétit, "Your “Expired” Milk Still Has So Much More to Give," 17 Sep. 2020 The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant. Eric Olson, Star Tribune, "NCAA basketball season set to open day before Thanksgiving," 16 Sep. 2020 Apple warned during its last earnings call that disruptions to its supply chain from the coronavirus pandemic could delay the latest iPhone. Rishi Iyengar, CNN, "Where is the iPhone 12?," 15 Sep. 2020 In the face of backlash over worries those rules could delay election ballots and disenfranchise some voters, DeJoy suspended those changes until after the election. Lee Davidson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Postal Service sends wrong info about Utah by-mail voting," 14 Sep. 2020 Jockeying for the presidency in Wisconsin intensified as the swing state’s highest court issued an order that could delay the mailing out of absentee ballots. Erik Larson,, "Ballot Battle in Hotly Contested Wisconsin Gets Twist From Court," 11 Sep. 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


14th 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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Learn More about delay

Time Traveler for delay

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for delay

Last Updated

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 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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