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 Chinese President Xi Jinping hasn’t hesitated to criticize the Trump administration and to leverage the trade war to strengthen his power. Thomas Gift, Twin Cities, "Thomas Gift: China has reasons to keep fighting a trade war," 5 Sep. 2019 Democrats running for president have certainly not hesitated to criticize President Trump’s trade policies. Michael Tanner, National Review, "Trump’s Trade Critics Don’t Offer Better Options," 21 Aug. 2019 After his wife Johanna died in 2001, Murphy hesitated before throwing out her art materials, and decided to start painting. Anne M. Hamilton, courant.com, "Extraordinary Life: It was hard to miss Johnny Murphy, a passionate lawyer who embraced Hartford," 14 July 2019 Mondesi didn't hesitate to jump on the pitch and drilled a two-run single to the left-field wall, breaking a tie in the Royals' 5-4 win over the Brewers. Maria Torres, kansascity, "Adalberto Mondesi sparks offense as Royals score five runs in an inning, beat Brewers," 27 June 2018 For a reader or spectator of the play, the scene carries significant dramatic irony, since Hamlet had, in a previous scene, hesitated and ultimately rejected killing Claudius while the king was praying in a chapel. Walt Hunter, The Atlantic, "When Hamlet Starts Showing Up in Federal Court," 13 June 2018 When approached about it, Nix doesn’t hesitate to recall the moment. Tom Green | Tgreen@al.com, oregonlive, "Freshman Orientation: Auburn’s Bo Nix the latest in trend of true freshman starting quarterbacks," 26 Aug. 2019 In 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent ended, the Hindu maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir hesitated to join either of the new countries, Pakistan and India. The Economist, "India abruptly ends the last special protection enjoyed by Kashmir," 8 Aug. 2019 Australia hesitated in part out of concern about alienating its other key allies, including China. Los Angeles Times, "Micronesia reaffirms U.S. support while Australia hesitates to join campaign against Iran," 5 Aug. 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

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for hesitate

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

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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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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).


strength of mind

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