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 Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned that the United States is behind on its rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, and each passing day makes the delay worse. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "'We are way behind': FDA commissioner says US has backlog of 35M vaccines," 4 Jan. 2021 Franklin said he’s grateful that his master’s degree work has finally been recognized, despite the delay. al, "Harold Franklin became Auburn University’s first Black student on this day in 1964," 4 Jan. 2021 Normally, the Board of Supervisors waits 30 days to vote on legislation, but Peskin’s office is hoping that usual delay gets waived given the urgency. Janelle Bitker,, "S.F. Chinatown’s 100-year-old Far East Cafe postpones closure," 31 Dec. 2020 In certain contexts, ambiguity and delay may be more valuable than vivid line-drawing. Washington Post, "When ‘red lines’ work, and when they fail," 31 Dec. 2020 If there is any good news amidst the latest delay, freshman forward Marcus Bagley is back to full strength after sustaining a calf injury in the closing minutes of a 70-62 win at Cal on Dec. 3. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona State men's basketball team forging ahead, working through obstacles," 31 Dec. 2020 The delay contributed to the appearance that Texas has administered a relatively small portion of the vaccine doses allocated to the state. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Temperature snag with Moderna vaccine delays additional shipments to Texas," 30 Dec. 2020 Biden and his aides warned at the time that the delay was hampering their ability to craft their own vaccine rollout plan, but have since said cooperation on that and other issues related to COVID-19 has improved. Time, "Biden Warns of 'Roadblocks' to Transition by Trump Officials," 29 Dec. 2020 For many players, the season delay has brought on a state of simultaneously being overwhelmed and having a greater sense of ambition. Kayla Harvey, cleveland, "Kaleb Brown, 2022 WR, in ‘wait-and-see mode’ with junior season, and recruiting, coach says: Buckeyes Recruiting Roundup," 29 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most House Republicans plan to contest the results along with nearly a dozen Senate Republicans, which will delay certification of the electoral colleges. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "Pelosi elected to fourth term as speaker," 3 Jan. 2021 In a federal case the Trump campaign brought seeking to delay certification of the results in Michigan, the specific mention of a ballot cast by a dead voter was incorrect: No vote was cast through the dead man’s registration. New York Times, "Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but the Myth of Stolen Elections Lives On," 26 Dec. 2020 The House could even direct the clerk to delay the certification of the count, kicking the question to the Biden administration. Kriston Capps,, "Trump Has One Last Chance to Meddle With Census Numbers," 24 Dec. 2020 Three Alabama congressmen are among the 106 House Republicans who signed onto a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to delay certification of presidential electors in four battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden. al, "Three Alabama GOP congressmen join Texas lawsuit challenging presidential election results," 10 Dec. 2020 The lawsuit, filed by two Wayne County residents, alleged that local election officials oversaw a fraudulent election and initially sought to delay the certification of Wayne County's election results until an audit could occur. Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press, "Citing state audit, judge denies request for separate Wayne County election audit," 9 Dec. 2020 The Trump campaign faced several other legal defeats around the country on Friday — including in Minnesota, where the state’s highest court dismissed a Republican lawsuit seeking to delay certification of the election results. Anchorage Daily News, "Judges turn back claims by Trump and his allies in six states as the president’s legal effort founders," 5 Dec. 2020 After his ruling, the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court refused the request to immediately reverse the lower court's ruling and delay the certification of Wayne County's results., "Americans decided their own truth this election season," 2 Dec. 2020 But other Republicans urged the board to delay certification until an audit could be performed. Adam Brewster, CBS News, "Michigan certifies election results and Biden's victory in the state," 23 Nov. 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

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Delay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on delay

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