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 So don't hesitate to toss 'em into your shopping cart! Good Housekeeping, "All of the Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes," 14 Oct. 2019 Your co-worker didn’t hesitate to confront you and express her desire to submit her own work. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Employee in dream job gets a ‘B’," 11 May 2020 Pearl Baptist Church didn’t hesitate to open its doors on the first Sunday it was allowed to. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "What in-person services looked like in Southern Indiana as churches reopened amid COVID-19," 10 May 2020 Asked whether Jordan or Tebow would have been the better major league prospect, Butera did not hesitate to answer. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, "That .202 hitter Michael Jordan was a better MLB prospect than, say, Tim Tebow," 10 May 2020 In April, the group and other medical organizations put out an urgent statement telling the public not hesitate to go to the hospital or call 911 in case of a medical emergency, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. Jacqueline Howard, CNN, "Is Covid-19 scaring heart attack victims away from ERs?," 6 May 2020 Asked if his brother would love the reincarnation, Jorge doesn’t hesitate. Eric Velasco, al, "Sol y Luna restaurant reopens, revives favorite dishes," 4 May 2020 At that town hall, Trump didn't hesitate to imply that Joe Biden, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee, was incompetent. Fox News, "Trump to take questions in Fox News virtual town hall at Lincoln Memorial amid coronavirus recovery," 3 May 2020 When asked about this, lead vocalist Matthew Ramsey didn’t hesitate. Washington Post, "Satellite radio is where you go to listen to the past. But this country channel keeps pushing forward.," 23 Apr. 2020

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

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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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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