dil·​a·​to·​ry | \ ˈdi-lə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce dilatory (audio) \

Definition of dilatory

1 : tending or intended to cause delay dilatory tactics
2 : characterized by procrastination : tardy dilatory in paying bills

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Other Words from dilatory

dilatorily \ ˌdi-​lə-​ˈtȯr-​ə-​lē How to pronounce dilatory (audio) \ adverb
dilatoriness \ ˈdi-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce dilatory (audio) \ noun

When Should You Use dilatory?

Slow down. Set a leisurely pace. What's the hurry? If procrastination is your style, "dilatory" is the word for you. That term has been used in English to describe things that cause delay since at least the 15th century, and its ancestors were hanging around with similar meanings long before that. If you take the time to trace the roots of dilatory, you will discover that it derives from "dilatus," the past participle of the Latin verb differre, which meant either "to postpone" or "to differ." If you think "differre" looks like several English words, you have a discerning eye. That verb is also an ancestor of the words "different" and "defer."

Examples of dilatory in a Sentence

the homeowner is claiming that local firefighters were dilatory in responding to the call
Recent Examples on the Web Bolick, R-Phoenix, eventually cut off public comment and discussion as Republicans argued Democrats were being dilatory, forcing a vote on the bill. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Tensions boil over at Legislature as Republicans restrict testimony from public, Democrats," 24 Mar. 2021 Detractors labeled López Obrador’s tentativeness a de facto endorsement of Trump’s dilatory legal tactics and assertions of electoral fraud. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "As the world congratulates Biden, Mexico’s president opts to wait. Critics call it a diplomatic blunder," 8 Nov. 2020 One lawmaker said Steve Ricchetti, a former chief of staff to Mr. Biden, had been candid last summer about the campaign’s dilatory approach to the party’s internal divisions. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "How Joe Biden Won the Presidency," 7 Nov. 2020 Republicans quickly coalesced around filling the seat, regardless of whom Mr. Trump nominated, and that left Democrats with very little to do but turn to dilatory tactics and make their case to voters. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "Senate Confirms Barrett, Delivering for Trump and Reshaping the Court," 26 Oct. 2020 These dilatory announcements fudged the core question of whether masks protect the wearer from others or others from the wearer. Ari Schulman, The New Republic, "The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution," 15 June 2020 Concurrently, under the Obama administration, the federal government was also dilatory in the extreme. WSJ, "If Gov. Cuomo Is So Great, Why Wasn’t He Prepared?," 10 Apr. 2020 This election is already shaping up to be a referendum on the dangerous, dilatory, and desperate presidency of Donald Trump. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Who Will Be Joe Biden’s Pick for Vice President?," 27 Apr. 2020 Beijing is now trying to compensate for its dilatory response by deploying 1,230 medical experts to Wuhan, and the People’s Liberation Army is sending 450. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Made-in-China Contagion," 28 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dilatory.' 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 dilatory

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dilatory

Middle English, from Anglo-French dilatorie, Late Latin dilatorius, from Latin differre (past participle dilatus) to postpone, differ — more at differ, tolerate

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Time Traveler for dilatory

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The first known use of dilatory was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dilatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dilatory. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for dilatory



English Language Learners Definition of dilatory

: causing a delay
: tending to be late : slow to do something

More from Merriam-Webster on dilatory

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dilatory

Britannica English: Translation of dilatory for Arabic Speakers

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