stand·​by | \ˈstan(d)-ˌbī \
plural standbys\ˈstan(d)-​ˌbīz \

Definition of standby 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a : one to be relied on especially in emergencies

b : a favorite or reliable choice or resource

2 : one that is held in reserve ready for use : substitute

on standby

: ready or available for immediate action or use



Definition of standby (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : held near at hand and ready for use a standby power plant standby equipment

2 : relating to the act or condition of standing by standby duty a standby period

3 : of, relating to, or traveling by an airline service in which the passenger must wait for an available unreserved seat standby passengers a standby ticket



Definition of standby (Entry 3 of 4)

: on a standby basis fly standby

stand by


Definition of stand by (Entry 4 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to be present also : to remain apart or aloof

2 : to be or to get ready to act an ambulance was standing by

transitive verb

: to remain loyal or faithful to : defend stood by his decision

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Synonyms & Antonyms for standby

Synonyms: Noun

anchor, buttress, dependence (also dependance), mainstay, pillar, reliance

Synonyms: Verb

adhere (to), cling (to), hew (to), keep (to), stick (to or with)

Antonyms: Verb

defect (from)

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Examples of standby in a Sentence


More police officers were sent as standbys. We bought an electric generator as a standby.


no matter how much people object, I will stand by my decision
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Several helicopters have been on standby for days, prepared to bring the boys to the hospital. Washington Post,, "Four boys removed from Thailand cave as divers race to beat the rains," 9 July 2018 Those displaced were being sent to a McDonald’s on base. De Luz and O’Neill Heights were on standby for evacuation to Paige Field House, the tweet added. Pauline Repard,, "Camp Pendleton brush fire prompts evacuations," 6 July 2018 Counselors will be on standby at all Noblesville schools. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "School will resume on Tuesday for all Noblesville schools except at West Middle School," 26 May 2018 This neighborhood standby has been around since 1982, serving more than just breakfast sandwiches. Brenna Donovan,, "Eight things to do in Woods Hole while you’re waiting for the ferry," 2 May 2018 This Williamsburg standby is renowned for its cocktail program, oyster happy hour, and general Southern Gothic vibe. Alex Van Buren, Condé Nast Traveler, "21 Best Bars in New York City," 1 Mar. 2018 This Decatur standby is a truly transporting experience. Henri Hollis,, "9 Atlanta restaurants offering classic Valentine’s Day romance," 26 Jan. 2018 This year, spice up your favorite summer standbys with clippings from your herb garden. Indianapolis Star, "RECIPES: Herbs with Spirit," 11 May 2018 But at brunch, weekend warriors find items that blend a.m. standbys with savory surprises. Michael Russell | The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "Portland's 10 best new brunches for Mother's Day 2018," 8 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

With PlayFab, developers need only pay for the server resources actually in use, plus a little extra for some standby capacity. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft wants Azure to be the multiplayer server solution for every platform," 14 Nov. 2018 Get in the standby line during the last hour the park is open. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Get on Any Disney World Ride in 30 Minutes or Less," 8 Nov. 2018 The Anti-Blazer Instead of reaching for your standby black blazer to top off a white top, check miniskirt, and boots, go for a more streamlined zip-up jacket. Vogue, "5 Activewear Pieces That Will Revolutionize Your Fall Dressing Game," 14 Nov. 2018 There’s noticeably slower boot and wake from standby speeds on the base Blade 15. Stefan Etienne, The Verge, "Razer Blade 15 dual storage review: too much compromise," 8 Nov. 2018 Other options for tickets include standby each performance night, an in-person lottery at the Public Theater each performance day, or contributing to the Public Theater. New York Times, "Things to Do in New York: Shakespeare (Drunk or in the Park)," 7 June 2018 That is, for those attractions that use Virtual Line, there are no standby options. Arthur Levine, USA TODAY, "Universal's Virtual Line revamps queues for attractions," 13 June 2018 The midfielder is on the standby list and will travel with the squad to Russia should a member of the Three Lions suffer an injury., "Crystal Palace Boss Roy Hodgson Sets Sights on £10m West Brom Midfielder Jake Livermore," 3 June 2018 Read More As Alberto looms, Miami will close public pools and keep portable pumps on standbyBoating? Howard Cohen, miamiherald, "Add the possibility of tornado and floods to your Memorial Day plans in South Florida | Miami Herald," 26 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

According to the JetBlue website, customers with travel planned between September 5 and September 17 can rebook or travel standby without paying additional fees. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "Satellite Image Shows Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia in One Powerful Portrait," 7 Sep. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Thank you to all of the friends, old and new, who have stood by me. Fox News, "Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand's full victim impact statement to the court about her experience," 26 Sep. 2018 And Dwight Hammond’s wife, Susie, praised one person in particular, a thin man who stood by in black pants and a purple button-up shirt. New York Times, "How a Tycoon and Pence Friend Helped 2 Ranchers Get Pardons," 12 July 2018 Even Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania who has at times stood by Trump, questioned the decision. Jonathan Tamari,, "Analysis: In nixing Eagles visit, Trump again plays divider-in-chief," 4 June 2018 Meghan McCain returned to her role as a co-host on The View this morning with a tearful thank you to the supporters who stood by her and her family in the wake of the death of her father, Senator John McCain. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Meghan McCain Returned to The View With a Tearful Thank You to Fans," 8 Oct. 2018 Thank you to all of the friends, old and new, who have stood by me. Fox News, "Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand's full victim impact statement to the court about her experience," 26 Sep. 2018 Thank you to all of the friends, old and new, who have stood by me. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Read Andrea Constand's Powerful Impact Statement About Bill Cosby," 25 Sep. 2018 Others have included markets that haven’t melted down, business leaders who have done little beyond using rhetoric to criticize the trade spat, and Republican voters who have stood by their president. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Senate rebuke of Trump tariffs won't actually change anything," 12 July 2018 Lauren is the one who stood by Mike through his many substance abuse crises, along with his current legal troubles over alleged tax evasion., "Here's Exactly How The Situation Proposed To His Girlfriend On Jersey Shore," 22 June 2018

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


1796, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1872, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1971, in the meaning defined above


13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

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Statistics for standby

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for standby

The first known use of standby was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for standby



English Language Learners Definition of standby

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person or thing that is available especially in emergencies



English Language Learners Definition of standby (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or traveling by an airline service in which the passenger must wait for an available seat

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More from Merriam-Webster on standby

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with standby

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for standby

Spanish Central: Translation of standby

Nglish: Translation of standby for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of standby for Arabic Speakers

Comments on standby

What made you want to look up standby? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

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