hes·​i·​tate | \ ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio) \
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.

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 How to pronounce hesitatingly (audio) \ 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 Doing our best to set the record straight here, but don’t hesitate to argue with us in the comments section. Washington Post, "The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 44 years.," 6 Feb. 2020 Gene’s commitment to the Guild lasted long after his presidency ended, regularly attending Board and Western Directors Council meetings, and never hesitating to share his thoughts. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "'M*A*S*H,' 'Lou Grant' co-creator Gene Reynolds dies at 96," 5 Feb. 2020 There was enough time for the crowd to roar and then fall silent, and enough time for the 76ers’ star, Joel Embiid—who, after trying to block the shot, had fallen toward the crowd—to step back onto the floor, hesitate, and look up. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "Seven Turning Points from the Year in Sports," 18 Dec. 2019 Use Google to find a line that works for you and don’t hesitate to call. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "The holidays are a lonely time for me. How can I get through it without being miserable?," 1 Dec. 2019 Ransom faked like was going to give it to Robinson, but hesitated and he was swallowed up for a 3-yard loss. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Chandler overcomes Salpointe Catholic with defense and a forgotten back to reach Open final," 24 Nov. 2019 Jack said his problem has been hesitating to come up on the run or stay back for the pass. Garry Smits, orlandosentinel.com, "Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack says he needs to make quicker decisions to deliver big plays," 22 Nov. 2019 Wardens eventually took their case to the district attorney, who did not hesitate to file charges. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Warden believes Vernon County poachers killed as many as 40 deer before wardens, acting on many tips, tracked them down," 15 Nov. 2019 Huffman recently proposed using 400%, but other legislators hesitated to go above 250%. Patrick O'donnell, cleveland, "Vouchers should be “poverty-based” only, House Speaker Householder says as deadline looms," 30 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for hesitate

Time Traveler

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

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Statistics for hesitate

Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for hesitate


How to pronounce hesitate (audio)

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 How to pronounce hesitate (audio) \
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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