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.

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

If your child has a flat spot on their head, don't hesitate to flag it for their pediatrician. Korin Miller, SELF, "My Son, Like Chrissy Teigen’s, Wore a Corrective Helmet as a Baby for a Flat Spot," 4 Dec. 2018 Always a romantic, Justin didn't hesitate to show Hailey his love. Isabella Gomez, Teen Vogue, "Justin and Hailey Bieber Wore Matching Jerseys at a Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Game," 25 Nov. 2018 Comments like these tap into a growing line of thinking in the ruling party, although most lawmakers hesitate to challenge Mr. Abe directly. Megumi Fujikawa, WSJ, "Abe Rival: Millions of Japanese Are Falling Behind Under Abenomics," 21 Aug. 2018 Aaliyah didn't hesitate to react, throwing herself over the two car seats her brother and cousin were sitting in. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "10-year-old girl shot while shielding baby brother receives medal for heroism," 10 June 2018 When North Carolina took on the Portland Thorns in Portland Wednesday, fans didn't hesitate in expressing their opinions about Hinkle. Jamie Goldberg, OregonLive.com, "Citing her faith, Jaelene Hinkle admits she withdrew from US Soccer team over LGBTQ pride jerseys," 30 May 2018 Bell did not hesitate, however, to represent dubious political figures. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, "The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation," 25 May 2018 In that spirit, Furman didn’t hesitate to share his recipes for a summer cookout: spicy cabbage slaw, juicy lemon-pepper chicken, a killer potato salad with bacon and eggs, a can’t-have-just-one-helping peach crisp, and more. Nikita Richardson, Bon Appetit, "Lemon-Pepper Chicken and Spiked Lemonade: A Summer Cookout Menu from B’s Cracklin’ BBQ," 23 May 2018 Senior Israeli officials have said repeatedly that Israel won’t hesitate to expand its military campaign into Iraq. Felicia Schwartz, WSJ, "As Israel Targets Iran in Syria, U.S. Officials Warn of Reprisals," 28 Oct. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hesitate

Statistics for hesitate

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hesitate

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on hesitate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hesitate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hesitate

Spanish Central: Translation of hesitate

Nglish: Translation of hesitate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hesitate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on hesitate

What made you want to look up hesitate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!