hes·i·tate | \ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt \
hesitated; hesitating

Definition of hesitate 

intransitive verb

1 : to hold back in doubt or indecision She didn't hesitate when they offered her the job.

2 : to delay momentarily : pause He hesitated and waited for her to say something.

3 : stammer

transitive verb

: to hold back from (doing or saying something) in doubt or uncertainty Don't hesitate to call if you need something.

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Other Words from hesitate

hesitater noun
hesitatingly \ˈhe-zə-ˌtā-tiŋ-lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for hesitate

hesitate, waver, vacillate, falter mean to show irresolution or uncertainty. hesitate implies a pause before deciding or acting or choosing. hesitated before answering the question waver implies hesitation after seeming to decide and so connotes weakness or a retreat. wavered in his support of the rebels vacillate implies prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision. vacillated until events were out of control falter implies a wavering or stumbling and often connotes nervousness, lack of courage, or outright fear. never once faltered during her testimony

Examples of hesitate in a Sentence

She hesitated and waited for her friend to say something. He hesitated about accepting the job. I sometimes hesitate to say what I am really thinking. I hesitated to come without being asked. I wouldn't hesitate to ask for your help if I felt I needed it. Don't hesitate to call if there is a problem.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Just be mindful of hydration and safety, dress appropriately and don’t hesitate to hop in the water, seek higher elevation or both. Jordan Rodriguez, idahostatesman, "How to beat the heat on your fishing trips in Idaho’s summer sun," 12 July 2018 So when a new Louisville company, Mojo Hydration, started offering Louisville City players a saline water concoction through an IV to help with post-game rehydration, Totsch didn't hesitate to give it a try. Zahria Rogers, The Courier-Journal, "Concierge IV hydration therapy service seeks to rehydrate Louisville," 12 July 2018 His buildings respect their surroundings but don’t hesitate to challenge them with something new. Blair Kamin, chicagotribune.com, "The national African-American museum still stirs the soul — and drops hints of what to expect at the Obama Presidential Center," 11 July 2018 The initial £53m deal apparently collapsed after the Reds hesitated following Fekir's medical and made Lyon pull the plug at the eleventh hour. SI.com, "New Twist in Liverpool's Chase of Nabil Fekir as Contact With Lyon President Reignites Transfer Saga," 12 July 2018 Some writers said their doctors now hesitate to prescribe opioids due to concerns over addiction. Kathleen Hoffman, STAT, "Opioid stigma is keeping many cancer patients from getting the pain control they need," 6 July 2018 Heat waves are a part of every summer, and scientists hesitate to link any single weather event to the warming climate that researchers have measured over long periods of time. Washington Post, "Temps rise, records fall: Things to know about the heat wave," 5 July 2018 As a pair of officers hovered over him, repeatedly asking him his name, Jamaal hesitated to give it. Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, The Atlantic, "An App for Ejecting the Homeless," 28 June 2018 Neither royal hesitates to borrow clothes rather than buy. Monique Jessen, PEOPLE.com, "Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice's Former Stylist Reveals How They Transformed Their Style," 26 June 2018

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

1598, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for hesitate

Latin haesitatus, past participle of haesitare to stick fast, hesitate, frequentative of haerēre to stick

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Phrases Related to hesitate

he who hesitates is lost

Statistics for hesitate

Last Updated

3 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hesitate

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

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More Definitions for hesitate



English Language Learners Definition of hesitate

: to stop briefly before you do something especially because you are nervous or unsure about what to do

: to be unwilling to do something because of doubt or uncertainty


hes·i·tate | \ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt \
hesitated; hesitating

Kids Definition of hesitate

1 : to pause before doing something He hesitated before crossing the stream.

2 : to be unwilling to do something because of doubt or nervousness Don't hesitate to ask for help.

Other Words from hesitate

hesitation \ˌhez-ə-ˈtā-shən \ noun

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Comments on hesitate

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