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

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Today, the supermarket standby is nearly synonymous with the artist, and his take on it has been licensed on everything from socks to skateboards (seriously). Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "Leanne Ford's Genius $5 Trick to Liven Up an All-White Kitchen," 25 Mar. 2019 Another Samsung standby is also gone, at least in the smaller Note10: expandable storage. Washington Post, "Galaxy Note10 hands on: What Samsung’s $950 big new phone adds — and takes away," 7 Aug. 2019 About 300 soldiers from New Brunswick were brought in to help with the cleanup and another 400 were on standby. Washington Post, "Canada soldiers helping to remove fallen trees after Dorian," 10 Sep. 2019 Officers from Las Vegas will also be on standby if needed. Fox News, "'Storm Area 51' alien-themed events in Nevada get final approval from county," 4 Sep. 2019 The acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Peter Gaynor, said 4,000 federal responders; 6,000 National Guard members; and 40,000 utility workers were on standby. Anchorage Daily News, "Dorian, back to a Category 3 hurricane, creeps up US coast," 5 Sep. 2019 The mainstream Chicken Parmesan had a nice breading - not greasy - and acts as a fine standby for less-adventurous palates. Marc Bona,, "Murano keeps Italian focus in sleek restaurant setting (review, photos)," 12 Sep. 2019 Another Samsung standby is also gone, at least in the smaller Note 10: expandable storage. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, "Galaxy Note 10 hands on: What Samsung’s $950 big new phone adds — and takes away," 21 Aug. 2019 Old standbys slipped in if they could be converted usefully, like chicken fingers made with rice flour to become a gluten-free option. Sarah Schweitzer, The Atlantic, "The Lunch Ladies of New Canaan," 15 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Broad, 221 S. Grand Ave., L.A. Free; online reservations or on-site standby line. (213) Oct. 19-Feb. Los Angeles Times, "The 11 best art exhibitions to see in L.A. this fall," 12 Sep. 2019 Wingfield said, when questioned directly by Harris, who was representing himself with a standby lawyer. oregonlive, "Portland police officer testifies about using chokehold on a suspect who had a gun," 11 Sep. 2019 The team is traveling to San Juan on Tuesday and will be on standby for rescue operations. CBS News, "Tropical Storm Dorian heads toward Puerto Rico — live updates," 28 Aug. 2019 House size is just one criterion for selecting a standby generator. David Agrell, Popular Mechanics, "Should You Buy a Standby Generator?," 25 Aug. 2019 The event is sold out, but a standby ticket line will form at the theater on the day of the event. Kate Tuttle,, "Ibram X. Kendi explores why ‘not racist’ doesn’t equal ‘anti-racist’," 22 Aug. 2019 For all anyone knows, the lander touched down safely on the target area and is sitting in standby mode, awaiting instruction from ground control. The Economist, "Bangalore, we have a problem," 7 Sep. 2019 For more intensive household needs, the go-to solution has traditionally been a portable or standby generator. Jason H. Harper, Los Angeles Times, "Shelter Me Column: How to cope with power loss during wildfire season," 23 Aug. 2019 And since there’s no standby heat loss with point-of-use water heaters, all the energy consumed is delivered at the tap. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How a Water Heater Works," 17 Aug. 2019 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 matter what Trump has said or done, Pompeo has stood by him. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of Trump," 19 Aug. 2019 The council could accept Salim’s project or stand by the commission’s ruling, which cited concerns with vehicle circulation and said the development would be incompatible with adjacent buildings. Priscella Vega, Daily Pilot, "Huntington Beach council to review previously denied Ellis Avenue condo development," 16 Aug. 2019 Yes, studies came out that showed that people were generally against Nike standing by him, but the brand actually gained popularity in the black populace. Georgia Frances King, Quartz, "The secret to making people care about climate change is surprisingly simple," 15 Aug. 2019 The team and the English soccer federation stood by him. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "England Entertains Thoughts of World Cup Victory," 30 June 2019 The Trump administration is standing by to deploy the nation’s emergency oil reserves and help stabilize markets if needed after a series of drone attacks in Saudi Arabia knocked out half of the kingdom’s crude output, or about 5% of world supplies. Anchorage Daily News, "Saudi supply disruption puts huge U.S. petroleum stash in play," 15 Sep. 2019 Coby later stood by as Parscale phoned Kushner, effectively pleading for his job. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign," 11 Sep. 2019 Ambulances and medical personnel stood by, and a broadcasting crew equipped with cameras and drones live-streamed it so fans at home didn't miss a single blow. Laura Mallonee, WIRED, "For These Sword-Wielding Warriors, Medieval Battles Live On," 27 Aug. 2019 Your social network will grow while old friends stand by your side and support you with good advice. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for Aug. 20, 2019: Happy birthday Amy Adams; Scorpio, polish up your first impression," 20 Aug. 2019

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 2019

Time Traveler for standby

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

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More Definitions for standby


How to pronounce stand by (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for standby

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with standby

Spanish Central: Translation of standby

Nglish: Translation of standby for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of standby for Arabic Speakers

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