hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈā-təs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Definition of hiatus

1a : a break in or as if in a material object : gap the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroad— Willa Cather the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the party— J. G. Colton
b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
2a : an interruption in time or continuity : break especially : a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted after a 5-year hiatus from writing a summer hiatus
b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

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Did You Know?

Hiatus comes from "hiare," a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, "hiatus" is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).

Examples of hiatus in a Sentence

The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground
Recent Examples on the Web The Michigan governor on Friday called on high schools and youth sports team to agree to a two-week hiatus to curb an alarming spread. Anne Flaherty, ABC News, "Pfizer asks regulators to give vaccine to kids as young as 12," 9 Apr. 2021 The Bobcats entered the MAC tournament as the fifth seed and amid a two-week hiatus. USA TODAY, "March Madness analysis: Team-by-team capsules for all 68 men's NCAA Tournament teams," 16 Mar. 2021 Just before the All-Star break, the 35-year-old Aldridge returned from a three-week hiatus due to a hip injury to find himself in a new role. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Five Spurs storylines to watch as the second half unfolds," 8 Mar. 2021 The Gaels also endured a nearly three-week hiatus because of virus issues from late January to mid-February. ... Steve Kroner, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area teams face long odds in men's and women's WCC tournaments," 3 Mar. 2021 The usual ambience — crowded grassy berms above the outfield walls, fans snagging autographs — will take a hiatus. New York Times, "Ready or Not, Baseball Begins Spring Training This Week," 15 Feb. 2021 For years, mothers who've temporarily stopped working have asked LinkedIn for more ways to reflect a caregiving hiatus on their public, digital resumes. Maria Aspan, Fortune, "LinkedIn is adding ‘stay-at-home mom’ and more caretaker titles, as 2.3 million women leave the workforce," 30 Mar. 2021 The network extended the talk show's hiatus days later as some of Osbourne's former co-hosts, including Holly Robinson Peete and Leah Remini, accused Osbourne of racist behavior. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, "Sharon Osbourne leaves 'The Talk' after 11 seasons following heated Piers Morgan debate," 27 Mar. 2021 The studies by Naik-Mathuria and the others are being paid for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is once again funding research into gun violence after a nearly 25-year hiatus imposed by Congress. BostonGlobe.com, "Can new gun violence research find a path around the political stalemate?," 27 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hiatus.' 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 hiatus

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hiatus

Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

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Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hiatus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hiatus. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for hiatus



English Language Learners Definition of hiatus

: a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped


hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈāt-əs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Medical Definition of hiatus

: a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ especially : an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

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