hes·​i·​tate ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio)
hesitated; hesitating

intransitive verb

: to hold back in doubt or indecision
She didn't hesitate when they offered her the job.
: to delay momentarily : pause
He hesitated and waited for her to say something.

transitive verb

: to hold back from (doing or saying something) in doubt or uncertainty
Don't hesitate to call if you need something.
hesitater noun
hesitatingly 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.
Recent Examples on the Web Don’t hesitate to find new care Sometimes, the relationship between a doctor and patient just isn’t the right fit, Albert says. Carly Weeks, TIME, 6 May 2024 Don’t hesitate to make a move or attend an event that takes you down memory lane. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, 3 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for hesitate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hesitate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near hesitate

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


hes·​i·​tate ˈhez-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio)
hesitated; hesitating
: to stop or pause because of uncertainty or indecision
hesitate before answering
: to be unwilling
hesitate to ask a favor
hesitater noun
hesitatingly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on hesitate

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