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 For more information about OSU’s policies, support services and how to report complaints, please do not hesitate to contact the OSU Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, by calling 541-737-3556, or by writing equal.opportunity@oregonstate.edu. oregonlive, "Oregon State president F. King Alexander tells staff campus is no place for sexual misconduct, harassment," 18 Nov. 2020 The law was not on her side, but Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon didn't hesitate to say yes when women started seeking her help in late 2017. Washington Post, "A proudly feminist lawyer takes a lead role fighting sexual violence in France," 13 Mar. 2021 Aviation needs to have models for all the women around the world who sometimes still hesitate to jump into this technical job position. Cécilia Pelloux, Forbes, "Air France Celebrates International Women’s Day Everyday Day," 10 Mar. 2021 Experts hesitate to make predictions about viral evolution; after all, variants emerge as the result of random mutations. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "The short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus," 4 Mar. 2021 No one should hesitate to get this new, one-shot option, advises M Health Fairview's Dr. Abe Jacob. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, "Don't be picky if you're offered a vaccine," 2 Mar. 2021 Even green-card holders often hesitate to accept food aid, worrying that accepting public assistance could hurt their chances of becoming citizens later, said Wong. NBC News, "Asian American food aid expands to address hidden hunger during pandemic," 24 Feb. 2021 Don’t hesitate to check the site yourself, though; the texts sometimes won’t come until the appointments have already been posted for a while, and many might already be scooped up. Nathan Ruiz, baltimoresun.com, "5 tips and tricks for getting a COVID vaccine appointment from the ‘Maryland Vaccine Hunters’ group," 23 Feb. 2021 Those who do recognize their unhealthy behaviors may hesitate to address these issues due to embarrassment. Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY, "Lana Condor didn't know she was battling body dysmorphia: Why it's so hard to spot," 18 Feb. 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

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 13 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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