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

Don't hesitate to express your concerns to the other parties. BostonGlobe.com, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY," 12 Sep. 2019 Visit the Rewards Bazaar to see more of September's Insider exclusives — the page gets updated frequently throughout the month and certain items sells out quickly, so don't hesitate to trade in point on the stuff that catches your eye. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "Here's How Sephora Insiders Can Get Tatcha's New Eye Cream for Free Right Now," 4 Sep. 2019 Don’t hesitate to make significant changes in your ballot from week to week. Jon Wilner, The Denver Post, "The Pac-12 Hotline’s AP preseason football ballot: Who’s No. 3?," 12 Aug. 2019 But don’t hesitate too long—the sale ends in just a few days on Sunday, and these comfy shoes will return to full price. Braelyn Wood, Health.com, "Reese Witherspoon Owns So Many Pairs of These Sneakers That She's Constantly Wearing Them," 23 July 2019 If things aren't going your way, don't hesitate to ask for advice from a wise friend. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive.com, "Horoscope July 19, 2019: Happy birthday Jared Padalecki; Cancer, focus on making money," 19 July 2019 And definitely don't hesitate to jump into the deep end. Courtney E. Smith, refinery29.com, "Splish Splash, Here Are All The Songs You Need To Soundtrack Your Pool Party," 5 July 2019 The native sunflowers are not a disciplined grower, so don’t hesitate to limit the stand to an appropriate area. Calvin Finch, San Antonio Express-News, "Your guide to foliage fit to feed the birds," 1 June 2018 Su also hesitated when asked whether AMD would bring back CrossFire, AMD’s answer to the multi-GPU trends of a few years ago. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "AMD: Next-gen Threadripper is coming, next-gen CrossFire probably isn't," 19 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

19 Sep 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

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