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

Definition of delay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 2)

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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Part of the delay is Congress, which didn’t provide Housing and Urban Development with money for Hurricane Laura victims until more than a year after the storm. New York Times, 23 July 2022 Historically, the biggest cause of delay is freight trains obstructing passenger trains. Luz Lazo, Washington Post, 22 July 2022 At least part of the delay in supplying Novavax's doses appears to be the result of quality testing still ongoing to clear the company's shots, which is only now wrapping up. Alexander Tin, CBS News, 21 July 2022 Leah Stokes, an associate professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, wrote in a New York Times guest essay that the stakes of further delay could not be higher. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2022 There's no official requirement for passengers to receive a refund or reimbursement in a result of a flight delay. Zach Wichter, USA TODAY, 13 July 2022 After years of delay, the most ambitious observatory ever built has at last left Earth. Scientific American, 7 July 2022 The carrier now has a handy one-stop reference page on its website that details all the various compensation passengers would be eligible for in the case of a delay or cancellation. Sandra Macgregor, Forbes, 5 July 2022 By that point, Ochoa—who is originally from Detroit and flew into Logan Airport that morning at 7 a.m.—was facing 12 hours of delay and couldn’t get a refund for her hotel. Christine Mui, Fortune, 1 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That might allow the company to delay maintenance on a particular server, or not replace a disk that would normally be expected to be reaching the end of its lifecycle. Barry Collins, Forbes, 2 Aug. 2022 Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency mass vaccination sites planned to delay opening or alter their hours to avoid severe weather. Jason Hanna, CNN, 21 July 2022 Others have noted that the process could be used as a way for prisoners to delay their executions or argue for reduced sentences. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 12 July 2022 In Harris County, Texas, where only 13 percent of people with eviction cases invoked the moratorium to delay or prevent their removal, eviction filings are already back to pre-pandemic levels. Bryce Covert, The New Republic, 5 July 2022 Trump's lawyer John Eastman proposed a scheme for seven states President Joe Biden won to submit alternate sets of electors to Congress, to potentially delay certification of the results or overturn the election. Katherine Swartz, USA TODAY, 28 June 2022 Donald Trump’s nascent media and technology company may need to start looking for other financing options, as federal investigations into its merger partner threaten to delay or kill the deal. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 June 2022 The grand jury in New York's Southern District is the latest federal investigation that could delay or complicate the merger between the company Trump chairs and Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company. Graham Kates, CBS News, 27 June 2022 Pilots from across the commercial airline industry have called attention to chronic staffing shortages that have forced carriers to either delay or cancel flights. Antonio Planas, NBC News, 22 June 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for delay

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near delay

De La Warr



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Statistics for delay

Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for delay


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.

DeLay biographical name

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

Definition of DeLay

Thomas (Dale) 1947–     American politician

More from Merriam-Webster on delay

Nglish: Translation of delay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delay for Arabic Speakers


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