hesitate

verb
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.

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

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 For all of his own extraordinary talent as a songwriter, Browne has never hesitated to bring forth the work of others. Thom Duffy, Billboard, "Jackson Browne Sings of AIDS-Era Compassion With 'A Human Touch' for Beacon Theatre Crowd in New York," 27 June 2019 Officials have hesitated to say how may planned schools could be affected, noting that costs keep changing. Patrick O'donnell, cleveland.com, "Some promised new schools could be axed as Cleveland district, state fight over money," 15 May 2018 That said, in the past, Penn hasn’t hesitated to wade into presidential politics at its graduations. Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, "Penn's Awkward Relationship With Its Most Famous Alumnus, Donald J. Trump," 15 May 2018 Even so, a number of Republicans — both Bush-administration veterans and others who supported the war — have hesitated to face up to its legacy. Hal Brands, National Review, "Lessons from the Iraq War," 20 June 2019 Companies are mostly hesitating, limiting orders and holding off on investments in the hope that time will bring clarity. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Globalization Is Moving Past the U.S. and Its Vision of World Order," 19 June 2019 Taylor hesitated for a second after contact, thinking there might be a chance the flare was caught, before breaking for third. Mike Digiovanna, latimes.com, "Daring decision by Dodgers third-base coach pays off in 3-2 win over Cubs," 17 June 2019 Questioned by the Free Press on Friday about his involvement in the preparation of the MDOT report, Needham hesitated for several seconds when asked who recommended FMI Corp. of North Carolina, the company MDOT hired to prepare the report. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "Emails show MDOT let lobbyist steer report on gravel shortage for Michigan roads," 6 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hesitate

Statistics for hesitate

Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hesitate

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hesitate

hesitate

verb

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

hesitate

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

providing supplementary assistance

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!