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 The deal is also the latest move by Canada’s Bombardier to dramatically shrink its business after production problems and order delays in its core train unit and rising costs in some of its aviation... Ben Dummett, WSJ, "Alstom Reaches Preliminary Deal to Buy Bombardier Train Unit," 16 Feb. 2020 But after a delay in results from the Iowa caucuses this month, questions about the presidential elections process have resurfaced. María Méndez, Dallas News, "Ask Curious Texas: What do you want to know about the presidential election process in 2020?," 14 Feb. 2020 That would mean avoiding the Iowa Democratic Party's disastrous delay in reporting its muddled results from the Feb. 3 caucuses in that state. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Six things to watch in the New Hampshire primary results," 11 Feb. 2020 With the delay in polling results in Iowa last week, candidates headed into New Hampshire without knowing who was the frontrunner in the first caucus. Sarah Midkiff,, "Watch Jill Biden Protect Her Husband From A Heckling Fan In New Hampshire," 11 Feb. 2020 But the delay in accessing the neuropsych would ultimately cost the family. USA Today, "Two boys with the same disability tried to get help. The rich student got it quickly. The poor student did not.," 9 Feb. 2020 Schiff’s suggestion that the brief, barely noticed delay in transmitting the aid caused harm of any kind to Ukraine’s self-defense was only slightly less laughable than his whopper that Trump somehow imperiled American national security. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Impeachment and Amnesia," 8 Feb. 2020 But the president passed up the opportunity to attack any specific candidate, instead mocking Democrats for their delay in tabulating the results from the Iowa caucuses. NBC News, "Trump warns on impeachment payback: 'You'll see'," 7 Feb. 2020 Some political watchers had wondered whether the delay in reporting results would steal the momentum the Iowan caucus winner usually claims. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Pete Buttigieg surges in New Hampshire after seizing Iowa narrative with claim of victory," 7 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The snow was enough to cause some school districts to delay or cancel Monday classes. oregonlive, "Light snow hits parts of Portland area early Monday," 3 Feb. 2020 Turkey has always supported the opposition forces fighting against the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, including some radical Islamists, and has sought to delay the Russian-Syrian advance to take Idlib. Carlotta Gall,, "Turkey launches deadly airstrikes against Syrian forces," 3 Feb. 2020 In the days following Tuesday’s unveiling of the plan in Washington, the Trump administration urged Mr. Netanyahu to delay any effective annexation of territory at least until after the March 2 Israeli elections. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "Israel Puts Brakes on West Bank Annexation Plan," 2 Feb. 2020 The trial is already expected to be delayed because the prosecutor and defense attorneys agreed to have previously untested evidence analyzed by the state forensic lab. Ashley Remkus |, al, "Alabama woman who said she killed her rapist in self-defense awaits fight of her life," 31 Jan. 2020 Unanswered questions Although there is now no longer any way to delay Brexit itself, the British government does have the option of extending the transition period by up to two years. David Meyer, Fortune, "Brexit Day is finally here. What will actually change?," 30 Jan. 2020 Schools, ranging from universities to kindergartens, have also been told to delay opening (link in Chinese) indefinitely. Jane Li, Quartz, "“Travels in my flat”: Scenes from China’s mandatory coronavirus staycations," 29 Jan. 2020 An authorization bill introduced on Friday by Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., urges NASA to delay putting U.S. astronauts back on the moon until 2028 in order to boost the space agency’s long-term plans for crewed Mars exploration. Fox News, "Proposed House bill urges NASA to delay putting US boots back on the moon until 2028," 28 Jan. 2020 But Justice Department officials refused to delay the deportation. Tim Golden, ProPublica, "Operation Encore and the Saudi Connection: A Secret History of the 9/11 Investigation," 23 Jan. 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


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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Time Traveler for delay

Time Traveler

The first known use of delay was in the 13th century

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Statistics for delay

Last Updated

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on delay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with delay

Spanish Central: Translation of delay

Nglish: Translation of delay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delay for Arabic Speakers

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