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 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

Seeing a wide gap in the middle of the pitch, Ruan cut inside, hesitating and then driving hard into open space while Tesho Akindele slipped his defender with a back door cut into the box. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City attack roars, Lions net 2-0 home win over FC Dallas," 5 Aug. 2019 For a horse, that’s asking a lot, but, on swim day, Pepper didn’t hesitate. Lois Szymanski, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Szymanski: Ponies, feathers and angels among us during swim day," 2 Aug. 2019 Police had arrived at the store within a minute of the shooting call at 7:46 p.m. and did not hesitate to enter the massive building, Corona Police Officer and department public information officer Tobias Kouroubacalis said. Brian Rokos, The Mercury News, "Police say off-duty LAPD officer was only shooter at Corona Costco," 15 June 2019 Even if the offers get closer to $10 million, the Warriors won’t hesitate to work something out. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors free agency: 8 steps the team hopes to take," 29 June 2019 Just as Louis gets the upper hand, Ellie morphs into an innocent, pleading guise and Louis hesitates to finish her off. James Hibberd, EW.com, "Watch Pet Sematary's agonizing alternate ending," 21 June 2019 Zhang isn’t ready to call his creation a liquid crystal, however, and hesitates to suggest an application. Quanta Magazine, "Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions," 16 June 2019 Blewitt’s sudden release proved the Bears won’t hesitate to cut a kicker, even with just two minicamp practices to go. Kalyn Kahler, SI.com, "The Bears' Constant Kicking Saga Continues Through Minicamp," 12 June 2019 Well aware of the baseball myth that Home Run Derby is where good swings go to die, Yelich has not hesitated to have fun with those predicting the ruination of the 2018 National League most valuable player. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Is Brewers' Christian Yelich worried about HR Derby ruining his swing? 'Not in the slightest.'," 4 July 2019

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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Statistics for hesitate

Last Updated

8 Aug 2019

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 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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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).


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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