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

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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

The dish became a summer standby meal for our shift. Julia Turshen, Twin Cities, "How cooking for charity made me a better cook at home," 4 July 2019 The dish became a summer standby meal for our shift. Julia Turshen, Washington Post, "How cooking for charity made me a better cook at home," 1 July 2019 Artist Testimonial: With the exception of 2016, emo standbys Taking Back Sunday have played Riot Fest every year since 2013. Chris Payne, Billboard, "What Does It Mean to Be an Independent Festival in 2019?," 26 June 2019 Since the evacuation of Washington was unlikely, even for top officials like cabinet officers, every federal department designated a second site for officials to gather on warm standby. Ed Burmila, The New Republic, "If Trump wanted to give himself sweeping new powers, could anyone stop him?," 13 June 2019 There are also familiar standbys — pad Thai with a hint of lemon; fresh rice noodles stuffed with mixed greens, carrots, and generous heaps of avocado; marinated chicken satay with a thick peanut sauce. Kara Baskin,, "Thai Noodle Cafe is a welcome pit stop in a culinarily rich stretch of Belmont," 13 June 2019 Here are some new releases and reliable standbys to consider for your big day — or for every day. Alix Strauss, New York Times, "A Little Lip Service," 4 June 2019 But layered into the quaint streets and old-fashioned standbys are a new generation of hotels, restaurants, and boutiques. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "Plan a Summer Stay in Salesas, Madrid’s Smallest Neighborhood," 25 May 2019 Instead of coal, the nation relied primarily on renewable energy along with standbys like oil, natural gas, and nuclear. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Britain Went an Entire Week Without Burning Coal," 10 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Fire 7 and Onn tablets have incredibly short standby lifespans. Cameron Faulkner, The Verge, "A $50 tablet can handle the basics, but not much more," 2 July 2019 By the time our plane landed about 9 p.m. in Dallas, the 8 p.m. Miami flight we had been scheduled to work had departed, staffed with standby flight attendants from our crew base in Dallas. Elliott Hester,, "That flight attendant in a passenger seat? He's not on duty so leave him alone," 1 July 2019 Anyone without a reservation wanting to join the tour on June 29 will be added to a standby list. Anne Gelhaus, The Mercury News, "Tour shows off Milpitas history," 14 June 2019 Still, the numbers are impressive, with twice the graphics performance, a 1.5X to 2X lower active power consumption, and a whopping 10X improvement on SOC standby performance. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel roadmap confirms 10nm 'Tiger Lake' chip with Xe graphics, more Ice Lake and Lakefield details," 9 May 2019 Installing a standby generator is no DIY project, either. David Agrell, Popular Mechanics, "Should You Buy a Standby Generator?," 11 Sep. 2018 Carolina Herrera is one of the royals' standby designers; earlier this week, Meghan Markle wore a Herrera gown for a formal meeting with the King of Morocco. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Gets Sporty in a Barbour Jacket, Ralph Lauren Sweater, and Sneakers," 27 Feb. 2019 In the half-century since Fontana slashed his paintings, any number of artists have followed his lead in deconstructing that old standby art object, the painting made on a piece of canvas stretched over a rectangular frame. Peter Plagens, WSJ, "‘Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold’ Review: Creativity That Cuts Against the Grain," 22 Jan. 2019 For those unable to snag one of the free tickets (though there is a standby line), offers 360-degree videos. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "‘The Mile-Long Opera: A Biography of 7 O’Clock’ Review: A Theme-Park Performance," 8 Oct. 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

Vu previously ran a food truck named Go Streatery and a doughnut stand by the name of Girl Friday Zeppole. Soleil Ho,, "With Top Hatters, San Leandro rocks a destination restaurant," 12 July 2019 Police said the teen was standing by a soda machine when Adams stabbed him in the back and slit his throat. CBS News, "White man indicted for allegedly killing black teen over rap music," 11 July 2019 In Wyoming, leadership stands by gawking as the resource curse runs its course yet again. David Roberts, Vox, "Coal left Appalachia devastated. Now it’s doing the same to Wyoming.," 9 July 2019 The boys would improve young timber stands by thinning, help carve new access roads and trails into the forest areas, plant seedlings on bare lands, stabilize eroding stream banks by hand-planting. Hubert H. (hubert Horatio) Humphrey, Harper's magazine, "Into the Woods," 10 June 2019 Guffey said the school building, expected to cost $6 million, should be standing by Aug. 1 and should be able to be toured by prospective parents in October., "Threats, bullying delayed progress at Alabama charter school, officials say," 7 June 2019 Ultimately, standing by the decision to accept my humanness is what helped me to navigate a new comprehension of my faith. Imani Bashir, Teen Vogue, "How I Learned to Love Ramadan," 10 May 2019 The shutdown Abbott referred to involved two girls in Overton, Texas, who in 2015 were forced to shut down a lemonade stand by the city police chief. Joshua Bote, USA TODAY, "Texas can no longer shut down kids' lemonade stands. It's 'common-sense,' governor says," 6 Aug. 2018 What water? shrugs Hanif Carter, 12, standing by the pool. Helen Ubiñas,, "And suddenly it's summertime in the city | Helen Ubiñas," 15 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

16 Jul 2019

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).


something desired as essential

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