stand·​by | \ ˈstan(d)-ˌbī How to pronounce standby (audio) \
plural standbys\ ˈstan(d)-​ˌbīz How to pronounce standby (audio) \

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

stood by; standing by; stands 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for standby

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of standby in a Sentence

Noun More police officers were sent as standbys. We bought an electric generator as a standby. Verb no matter how much people object, I will stand by my decision
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Burgum had placed the National Guard on standby earlier Thursday. NBC News, "North Dakota tourist town evacuated because of wildfire," 2 Apr. 2021 Four teams that didn’t make it — Louisville (13-8), Colorado State (18-6), Saint Louis (14-6) and Mississippi (16-11) — have been put on standby. C.j. Doon,, "NCAA tournament guide: Everything you need to know before filling out your brackets," 15 Mar. 2021 Hatch was on standby in a nearby patrol car, guarding the house when Francis drove up, an OCSO spokesperson said. Katie Rice,, "Domestic violence suspect shot at deputy twice before being fatally shot, footage shows," 1 Mar. 2021 Glover sent in two civil-disturbance units and kept a third on standby. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob," 14 Jan. 2021 Glover sent in two civil-disturbance units and kept a third on standby. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob," 14 Jan. 2021 Sund has previously said his requests for the National Guard to be placed on standby in the days before the riot were denied. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "Live politics updates: Police officials to testify about Capitol riot at Senate hearing," 23 Feb. 2021 Almost as soon as Boston Lyric Opera announced its 2020-21 season last spring, its future was put on standby with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of live events. Globe Staff,, "Boston Lyric Opera drops a fully animated ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ production," 27 Jan. 2021 Glover sent in two civil-disturbance units and kept a third on standby. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob," 14 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Those who run the 911 operation systems in Birmingham and Jefferson County were on standby, watching from afar and plotting the next move. Carol Robinson |, al, "Jefferson County 911 prepares for worst in early morning ‘Operation Bug Out’ drill," 3 Mar. 2021 Comal County’s vaccination standby list, which is currently full, will reopen Monday. Peggy O’hare, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio reports 287 new COVID cases, three more deaths," 5 Mar. 2021 At Discount Drug Mart, a chain of 76 pharmacies in Ohio, the vaccination teams add up their doses against no-shows throughout the day, and start reaching out early to the 25 people who are on their rolling standby lists. New York Times, "‘It’s Like Buying Bruce Springsteen Tickets’: The Hunt to Find a Vaccine Shot," 3 Mar. 2021 Besides the LEDs and a red standby light, there’s nothing else to show the Cyrus is working. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, "The Cyrus One Cast Smart Amplifier Could Be The Answer To All Your Music Needs," 1 Mar. 2021 There is also a well for irrigation and two commercial standby generators. oregonlive, "A massive Portland midcentury modern with plants growing on the roof, a ceramic studio in back is for sale at $2.4 million," 28 Feb. 2021 More: Want to get on a vaccine standby list in Indiana? Emily Hopkins, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana coronavirus update: State reports 897 more cases, 27 new deaths," 28 Feb. 2021 Some providers, including pharmacies such as Discount Drug Mart, use standby lists. Courtney Astolfi, cleveland, "What you should know about what happens to leftover COVID-19 vaccines in Ohio," 26 Feb. 2021 The same issues have been reflected in the county’s informal vaccine standby lines, in which large groups of predominantly white people often camp out for hours outside a South L.A. clinic in hopes of a shot. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Vaccine access codes for hard-hit Black, Latino communities improperly used in other L.A. areas," 23 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Flying standby on the same day and putting frequent flier miles back into loyalty accounts are becoming free benefits, too. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, "What the Future of Air Travel Looks Like," 14 Dec. 2020 Alaska Airlines only allows certain tickets to fly standby, including refundable main cabin tickets and first class tickets. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, "Major U.S. Airlines Have Dropped Their Change Fees, but Not All Policies Are the Same — What to Know," 18 Sep. 2020 Allied Pilots Association spokesman Dennis Tajer said there is also an unusually high number of pilots working standby in recent months. Kyle Arnold,, "American Airlines chops 83,000 flights from its October schedule," 3 Sep. 2020 Currently, travelers must pay a $75 fee to fly standby. Susan Glaser, cleveland, "United Airlines permanently drops pricey change fee for most fliers," 31 Aug. 2020 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 His players could proudly stand by him on the court again, in public view. Jon Blau, The Indianapolis Star, "Mike Woodson era at IU basketball comes with warm embrace of Bob Knight years," 13 Apr. 2021 Acknowledge the people who continue to loyally stand by your side and support your efforts. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for April 10, 2021: Leo, discuss plans with partner; Sagittarius, let imagination run free," 10 Apr. 2021 For now, a number have issued tentative plans and told students and families to stand by for updates. Washington Post, "Most D.C.-area colleges and universities have yet to finalize commencement plans," 20 Mar. 2021 White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has criticized China for blocking COVID-19 data but declined to stand by the declassified U.S. intelligence. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "WHO team leader admits no 'hard facts or detailed data' received from Wuhan lab," 3 Mar. 2021 His rise as a political figure depended first upon Republican ambivalence and then upon their willingness to embrace and stand by him as a candidate and as president. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "Trump Renews His Vows With the Republican Party," 1 Mar. 2021 What is clear from the response on Sunday and Monday is that Trump remains largely at the head of the U.S. conservative movement, and his supporters continue to stand by him. Peter Suciu, Forbes, "Social Media Reactions To Donald Trump's CPAC Speech," 1 Mar. 2021 Without blowing things out of proportion, say what’s on your mind and stand by it. Tarot Astrologers,, "Daily horoscope for February 27, 2021," 27 Feb. 2021 But the plaintiffs stand by their lawsuit, and the county has entered into settlement negotiations with them. Jenny Singer, Glamour, "Who Thinks of Incarcerated People in a Pandemic? These Women," 30 Mar. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about standby

Time Traveler for standby

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for standby

Last Updated

7 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Standby.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!