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

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 Also, Gigabyte has an aggressive trigger for closing the lid and going into standby. Stefan Etienne, The Verge, "New gaming laptops haven’t solved the battery life problem," 30 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Sometimes, though, an app goes rogue, keeping your phone from going into standby and draining down your battery. Jennifer Jolly, USA TODAY, "What to do now if your iPhone's battery still won't make it through the day," 25 Apr. 2018 The flight crews and B-2s—both primary and standby—were selected. William Langewiesche, The Atlantic, "An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS," 21 June 2018 The old standby car games, including license plate bingo and the alphabet scavenger hunt, can keep younger kids busy. Mari-jane Williams,, "Finding the fun in a family road trip," 20 June 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

The administration, faculty and staff of LHHS were extremely supportive throughout this time; my friends and family showed me much love and compassion; and my students stood by me as well. Leslie Postal,, "Criminal charges dropped against former Lake Howell High theater teacher," 10 July 2018 McCaskill's campaign views trade, however, as an opening, criticizing Hawley for standing by Trump as local businesses begin to bear the burden of the trade hostilities. Tory Newmyer,, "Trump tariffs could test unity for Republican candidates in key Senate races," 5 July 2018 Kardashian has, through it all, stood by her husband. Rebecca Farley,, "Kanye West Thought Kim Kardashian Would Leave Him After TMZ Stunt," 25 June 2018 Schmidt called out Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell for standing by Trump’s administration. Tara Golshan, Vox, "A prominent GOP strategist has left the Republican Party over family separations at the border," 20 June 2018 Back in the courtroom after tempers had cooled and with sheriff's deputies standing by, Isquick asked that some of Wolkin's comments be stricken from the record. Andrea Simakis,, "Cleveland Clinic, parents clash over girl's brain tumor treatment; court to decide," 13 May 2018 Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said advocacy groups are standing by to help locate missing parents to meet the deadline, even those who were removed and are now living in other countries. Kristina Davis,, "Federal judge declines to ease deadlines for government to reunite separated families," 8 July 2018 Courtesy of White Point Paces Bao + Broth joins a rotisserie chicken stand by the owners of Aix En Provence and Undercurrent Coffee that already have been announced. Kathleen Purvis, charlotteobserver, "Here's what's new on the restaurants planned for NoDa's massive new food hall," 15 June 2018 But, perhaps no one mourned the loss more than those closest to her, including her personal secret service agents who stood by her side for years. Stacey Leasca, Southern Living, "WATCH: Why Barbara Bush’s Code Name Was Absolutely Perfect," 11 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

27 Aug 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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