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


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

But the case was bogged down by delays and, after 20 years, thrown out for technical reasons. Harrison Smith,, "Arthur Lazarus, who represented Sioux Nation in landmark Supreme Court case, dies at 92," 1 Aug. 2019 Chairman Graham pledged to confront the delay, bring the bill up again next week, and force a committee vote. Li Zhou, Vox, "The viral video of Lindsey Graham silencing Senate Democrats, explained," 1 Aug. 2019 Other members of Congress have said there should be no further delay, arguing that the United States is already lagging behind other countries in applying the latest cloud technology to the military. Scott Shane, New York Times, "Pentagon Delays Award of $10 Billion Cloud Computing Contract," 1 Aug. 2019 Everybody understands delays, and everybody understands costs. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska ferry workers have been on strike for a week. The effects continue to ripple throughout coastal Alaska.," 31 July 2019 Motorists should expect congestion and delays, as well as low visibility due to smoke., "Portland metro Tuesday traffic: Expect night paving delays on U.S. 20 near the Santiam Pass," 30 July 2019 After enduring a postponement due to a pool maintenance issue and a two-hour rain delay, Aberdeen was short-handed in their attempt to take down the top team in the league and fell by a score of 57-32., "Aberdeen divers drop final meet," 25 July 2019 Partial closures would keep the bridge open but create traffic delays, increase costs and extend the timeline of the project, according to the project website. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "Sherman Minton Bridge may fully close for construction. Will other bridge tolls be waived?," 23 July 2019 However, delays and a lack of clear communication, along with the broadcasting of the fact that Hitler was alive, ultimately unraveled the entire plan. Albinko Hasic, Time, "A Group of German Leaders Tried to Kill Hitler in 1944. Here’s Why They Failed," 19 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Projects delayed by the heavy winter rains have a green light. Gary Richards, The Mercury News, "Biggest paving plans in decades underway across the Bay Area," 4 Aug. 2019 But the Galaxy Fold — a futuristic phone that’s meant to open and close like a book — will probably remain under wraps after design flaws delayed its introduction this year. New York Times, "The Week in Business: The China Trade War Clobbers the Markets," 3 Aug. 2019 So the Senate leader ended up delaying the vote until next week and will host a public confirmation hearing for Pierluisi on Monday. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "No one knows who will be in charge of Puerto Rico," 2 Aug. 2019 Meanwhile, Turkey has taken to arguing that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the U.S. law that mandates sanctions, gives Trump the authority to waive or delay penalties. Madeleine Joung, Time, "How President Trump Is Undercutting Pompeo in a Dispute Over Turkey's Purchase of a Russian Missile System," 2 Aug. 2019 But council members deferred to city parks officials, who recommended delaying such a move. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego approves plan for mid-rise housing near new trolley stops in Linda Vista, Pacific Beach," 1 Aug. 2019 The television station reported that the scare did not delay the graduation ceremony. Fox News, "Digital graduation cap decoration mistaken for explosive," 1 Aug. 2019 Seiler still has a large scar on her right knee from the surgery that delayed the start of her professional career. Jamie Goldberg,, "A year after injury delayed start of her professional career, Gabby Seiler is excelling in Portland Thorns midfield," 1 Aug. 2019 Pierce told Anchorage Daily News, adding that the glacier’s shedding ice delayed the response of the rescue team that retrieved the three bodies. Eric Todisco,, "3 German Tourists Found Dead Near Alaskan Glacier by a Kayak Guide Giving a Group Tour," 31 July 2019

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

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

Statistics for delay

Last Updated

6 Aug 2019

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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on delay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with delay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delay

Spanish Central: Translation of delay

Nglish: Translation of delay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delay for Arabic Speakers

Comments on delay

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to shake or wave menacingly

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