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.
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 How to pronounce hesitate (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 Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas don't hesitate to show some affection in front of red-carpet cameras. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Share a Red-Carpet PDA Moment at the 2021 BAFTAs," 12 Apr. 2021 Rosa Walter-Meade, a volunteer at the Sharp Healthcare Super Station in Chula Vista, didn’t hesitate after seeing a distraught woman who was trying to make an appointment to get her 88-year-old mother vaccinated. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘I’m making a difference:’ Vaccine site volunteers came for a shot, but stayed to help," 10 Apr. 2021 So when the coaching staff came to Jackson with an offer to switch to cornerback, the former Narbonne High star didn’t hesitate. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, "USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is happy to finally have a full spring camp," 1 Apr. 2021 While this class of edge rushers lacks a bona fide star, the Vikings shouldn’t hesitate to take their favorite of the bunch. C.j. Doon, baltimoresun.com, "2021 NFL mock draft (Version 3.0): First-round projections after 49ers, Dolphins shake up the top 10," 31 Mar. 2021 When asked about Academic Games’ greatest benefits to Detroit students, Holstein did not hesitate to identify a subject which never loses its importance regardless of what is going on in the world — math. Scott Talley, Freep.com, "Detroit educator, Academic Games coach Christopher Holstein still 'quintessential' teacher," 31 Mar. 2021 After all, the Padres themselves did not hesitate to commit $340 million over 14 years to Tatis this winter, a sum that may, yes, prove to be a bargain. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "At 21, Fernando Tatis Jr. already carries the 'Face of Baseball' label, even as MLB aims to diversify the field," 31 Mar. 2021 But when the moment to act came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives. Ray Sanchez, CNN, "Slain Police Officer Eric Talley's life to be celebrated in public funeral," 30 Mar. 2021 Berry didn’t hesitate to stack positions in free agency and the draft last year. Dan Labbe, cleveland, "What we’ve learned about the Browns and Andrew Berry’s approach to roster building in free agency," 24 Mar. 2021

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

18 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 23 Apr. 2021.

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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 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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Comments on hesitate

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