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

This very good salad, which obviously glances toward Southeast Asia, is a smart way to handle an antipasto standby that is usually pointless except when melons are in season. New York Times, "Red-Sauce Italian Cooking Finds a Future at Don Angie," 29 May 2018 Yet these military shorts—like utilitarian workwear standbys such as chambray shirts, bluejeans and chore coats—pack the secondary benefit of being quite handsome. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "This Summer, Dress Like Hemingway on His Boat," 10 July 2018 The two approaches can be combined, with a group exhibition of gallery standbys leavened with the work of a new artist or two. Charles Desmarais,, "Summer exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery a monstrous affair," 6 July 2018 Bop across to the west side of Broad Street for another taste of Southeast Asian flavors at Indonesian standby Hardena (1754 S. Hicks St.). Craig Laban,, "How to stretch your dining dollars in Philly | Craig LaBan," 27 June 2018 One network standby seems to be assured a place at New Fox, and that’s Gordon Ramsay. Michael O'connell, The Hollywood Reporter, "Gordon Ramsay’s ’24 Hours to Hell and Back’ Renewed at Fox," 27 June 2018 Trusty standbys include anything with blue crab and the fried chicken and waffles with caramelized onions. Travel Wisconsin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Five places for the best brunches in Wisconsin," 10 June 2018 Jon Moyle, an attorney who represents the group known as FIPUG, argued that more information is needed regarding FPL’s costs associated with pre-storm hardening efforts, along with mobilization, demobilization and crew-standby costs. Jim Turner, miamiherald, "Monthly FPL bills to go down slightly," 5 June 2018 Even television stations that have a helicopter on standby are now utilizing drones for their ease of use and cost savings. Jerry Jackson,, "The Year of the Drone," 1 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 The deal, known as a standby agreement, places requirements for cuts in the country’s fiscal deficit that were sharper than initially planned. Daniel Politi, New York Times, "Argentina Reaches $50 Billion Financing Deal With I.M.F.," 7 June 2018 During the second half, as England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was about to take a free kick, the television’s standby timer started counting down. NBC News, "Fans howl over taking down World Cup Twitter posts for copyright issues," 14 July 2018 Since Xi’s pledge before the United Nations to further support U.N. PKOs with funds and an 8,000 troop standby force, China has been working on training peacekeepers — both national and foreign units. Lina Benabdallah, Washington Post, "China-Africa military ties have deepened. Here are 4 things to know.," 6 July 2018 Florida’s Walt Disney World, for example, offers FastPass+, a complimentary system that allows visitors to make advance reservations and bypass a few standby lines on select attractions. Arthur Levine, USA TODAY, "Universal's Virtual Line revamps queues for attractions," 13 June 2018 From Day 1, they are focused on getting to a major airline and building seniority, the all-important number that rules route assignments, pay scales and access to standby tickets. Andrew Van Dam,, "Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools, creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation," 21 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

Chris is nothing but loving and compassionate and is the only person who has stood by me, never judged me, helped me heal and feel whole. Hilary Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter, "Jacinda Barrett Defends Ex-Boyfriend Chris Hardwick Amid Misconduct Scandal," 26 June 2018 In discussing the broader question of Daniels' credibility, Giuliani stood by the themes of his controversial comments in Israel. Maegan Vazquez, CNN, "Giuliani defends comments about Stormy Daniels' credibility," 7 June 2018 Kratz stood by with his head in his hands, DiNardo said. The Washington Post,, "He lured young men looking for marijuana. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.," 17 May 2018 In the face of the evidence, though, Purdue stood by its claim for years. German Lopez, Vox, "Drug companies bought doctors fancy meals — and then those doctors prescribed more opioids," 15 May 2018 The Houston father stands by his choice in turning his son in, according to KHOU-TV. Heather Leighton, Houston Chronicle, "Reports: Houston father turns in his 18-year-old son after he 'brags about' breaking into 250 cars," 25 Apr. 2018 In speaking with reporters afterward, Brooks stood by that statement and explained why. Paul Gattis,, "Mo Brooks: Doug Jones election to Senate 'major loss' for country," 12 Mar. 2018 Since then, the Detroit Police Department has been standing by observing the protest, taking no other action, said Officer Holly Lowe, a DPD spokeswoman. John Bellamy And Payton Wells, Detroit Free Press, "Homeland Security removes tents from in front of Detroit ICE office," 27 June 2018 Part of the economic uncertainty comes from President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran, even though other world powers have pledged to stand by the accord. Jon Gambrell, The Seattle Times, "Protests in Iran as Rouhani says US wants ‘economic war’," 26 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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Learn More about standby

Statistics for standby

Last Updated

24 Sep 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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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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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