loi·​ter | \ ˈlȯi-tər How to pronounce loiter (audio) \
loitered; loitering; loiters

Definition of loiter

intransitive verb

1 : to delay an activity with idle stops and pauses : dawdle asked him not to loiter on the way home
2a : to remain in an area for no obvious reason teenagers loitering in the parking lot
b : to lag behind a crowd of people, who loitered to hear the bloodcurdling threats the prisoner shouted— Willa Cather

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Other Words from loiter

loiter noun
loiterer \ ˈlȯi-​tər-​ər How to pronounce loiter (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for loiter

delay, procrastinate, lag, loiter, dawdle, dally mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. delay usually implies a putting off of something (such as a beginning or departure). we cannot delay any longer procrastinate implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy. procrastinates about making decisions lag implies failure to maintain a speed set by others. lagging behind in technology loiter and dawdle imply delay while in progress, especially in walking, but dawdle more clearly suggests an aimless wasting of time. loitered at several store windows children dawdling on their way home from school dally suggests delay through trifling or vacillation when promptness is necessary. stop dallying and get to work

Examples of loiter in a Sentence

Loitering is prohibited outside the theaters. don't loiter in this neighborhood after dark
Recent Examples on the Web Brown remained in handcuffs for about eight more minutes, the video showed, until officers released him and walked away, while warning the men not to loiter. Grace Toohey, orlandosentinel.com, 11 Aug. 2021 The mayor’s proposal has the backing of aldermen who want to force problem liquor stores to close earlier, so crowds don’t loiter around the businesses into the early morning hours, making noise and intimidating passersby. John Byrne, chicagotribune.com, 17 June 2021 But what if ships could launch airborne radar systems that would loiter overhead? Michael Peck, Forbes, 17 June 2021 Children are eventually given such jobs as washing ore or carrying heavy sacks of rocks to traders who loiter near the sites on motorcycles. Nicolas Niarchos, The New Yorker, 24 May 2021 The planes also feature an aerial refueling probe, allowing Russia’s leadership to loiter in midair or fly long distances to safety. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 10 Dec. 2020 Christian Lynn, associate principal for city engineering firm AECOM, told those at the meeting that, because Gates Mills Boulevard is well traveled, the tendency is less for those who may do bad things to loiter. cleveland, 10 Nov. 2020 The plane flew southwest, following the Ryukyu islands chain, past Taiwan, to loiter off the coast of Hainan Island. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 10 Sep. 2020 His duties include intervening when members scuffle with other gangs, such as Friends of the Dead, whose members loiter at a nearby cemetery. The Economist, 4 July 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for loiter

Middle English

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Time Traveler for loiter

Time Traveler

The first known use of loiter was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near loiter



loiter away

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Cite this Entry

“Loiter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loiter. Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for loiter



English Language Learners Definition of loiter

: to remain in an area when you do not have a particular reason to be there


loi·​ter | \ ˈlȯi-tər How to pronounce loiter (audio) \
loitered; loitering

Kids Definition of loiter

1 : to hang around somewhere for no good reason
2 : to dawdle on the way to somewhere Don't loiter on your way home.

Other Words from loiter

loiterer noun


intransitive verb
loi·​ter | \ ˈlȯi-tər How to pronounce loiter (audio) \

Legal Definition of loiter

: to remain in or hang around an area for no obvious purpose specifically : to linger for the purpose of committing a crime a statute forbidding any person from loitering on school grounds

More from Merriam-Webster on loiter

Nglish: Translation of loiter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of loiter for Arabic Speakers


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