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 dilatorily (audio) \ adverb
dilatoriness \ ˈdi-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce dilatoriness (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 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 But Haskins’s dilatory dropback decisions are precisely what coaches fear with an ill-prepared young QB. Andy Benoit, SI.com, "Dwayne Haskins Wasn’t Ready on Sunday, So What Does Washington Do Now?," 30 Sep. 2019 Fieseler also attends to a different kind of heroism — the painstaking slog of activism that has seen the fire commemorated in plaques and public days of mourning, the seeking of sympathy from a dilatory city and church. Parul Sehgal, New York Times, "In 1973, an Arsonist Killed 32 People at a Gay Club. Why Has History Shrugged?," 29 May 2018 That’s actually very optimistic, particularly given the certainty of dilatory tactics by Senate Democrats who are still justifiably angry about Mitch McConnell’s denial of a confirmation vote to Obama nominee Merrick Garland. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Bracing For a Supreme Court Retirement Bombshell," 27 June 2018 This new, less dilatory mode doesn’t ask to be understood, but haunts us with a bleakly dead-on, diffident humor about the pain of being alive. Megan O’grady, New York Times, "Read Any Antisocial Novels Lately?," 10 May 2018 Ruders, a prolific composer with a dazzling musical mind, sometimes writes works whose expressive ends can seem dilatory and obscure. Russell Platt, The New Yorker, "Revisiting “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Opera," 28 May 2017 That was a corollary to the dilatory pursuit of war crimes prosecutions by a West German justice system that was riddled with lawyers and judges who were former Nazis. Alison Smale, New York Times, "Oskar Gröning, Ex-SS Soldier at Auschwitz, Gets Four-Year Sentence JULY 15, 2015," 17 June 2016

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

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dilatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dilatory. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for dilatory


How to pronounce dilatory (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dilatory

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on dilatory

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dilatory

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dilatory

Britannica English: Translation of dilatory for Arabic Speakers

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