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 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 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

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

No weapons were used in the robbery as customers and employees stood by in shock. Ashley Wong, USA TODAY, "Four thieves steal over $27,000 worth of goods from Apple store in Fresno," 12 July 2018 While Jones stands by her decision to air the allegation in the film, Cissy, in conjunction with her niece Dionne, has issued the following emotional statement, revealing their deep concerns about the claim, and the film as a whole. Liz Mcneil,, "Read Cissy Houston's Emotional Full Statement About Claim That Whitney Houston Was Molested," 11 July 2018 Congressional Republicans echoed the White House line by attacking the criminal probe of alleged collusion with Russia while Trump's FBI director stood by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. David Rovella,, "Your Evening Briefing," 18 June 2018 The records describe Donaldson as having behavioral changes that troubled his on-again, off-again girlfriend, even as his parents stood by him. CBS News, "Report: Suspected Tampa serial killer viewed porn after each slaying," 11 June 2018 Trump himself looks like a comically petulant child, and John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, appears to be nervous, staunchly standing by the president. Meagan Fredette,, "What Happened In This Iconic Photo Of Angela Merkel & Donald Trump?," 10 June 2018 Everything was going normally: Caruth ordered a slice of pizza and an iced tea, paid for his items and then went to stand by the counter to wait on his friends to finish ordering. Breanna Edwards, The Root, "Bronx, NY, Man Allegedly Beaten by Pizzeria Employee With Wooden Pizza-Making Tool Demands Justice," 31 May 2018 Much gratitude to everyone who has shown their support and stood by me. Khadrice Rollins,, "Arbitrator Rules in Favor of USC in Steve Sarkisian's $30 Million Wrongful Termination Lawsuit," 9 July 2018 And standing by his side will be Walden, whose WinStar Farm is the majority owner of Justify, the prohibitive 1-2 favorite in Saturday’s 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes. John Cherwa,, "Elliott Walden wants to go from spoiler to Triple Crown champion," 19 May 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

5 Nov 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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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