\ˈwāt \

Definition of wait 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to stay in place in expectation of : await waited the result of the advertisement— W. M. Thackeray wait your turn

2 : to delay serving (a meal)

3 : to serve as waiter for wait tables

intransitive verb

1a : to remain stationary in readiness or expectation wait for a train

b : to pause for another to catch up usually used with up

2a : to look forward expectantly just waiting to see his rival lose

b : to hold back expectantly waiting for a chance to strike

3 : to serve at meals usually used in such phrases as wait on tables or wait on table

4a : to be ready and available slippers waiting by the bed

b : to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized the chores can wait

5 : pause, stop used to preface an interjected question, correction, etc. "Wait, Mom. Wait. What did you say?" I said. "He left you what?"— Frederick BuschSo wait, what's so bad about wanting to eat right?— Annie Daly

wait on or less commonly wait upon

1a : to attend as a servant

b : to supply the wants of : serve

2 : to make a formal call on

3 : to wait for

wait up

: to delay going to bed : stay up



Definition of wait (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a hidden or concealed position used chiefly in the expression lie in wait

b : a state or attitude of watchfulness and expectancy anchored in wait for early morning fishing— Fred Zimmer

2a : one of a band of public musicians in England employed to play for processions or public entertainments

b(1) : one of a group who serenade for gratuities especially at the Christmas season

(2) : a piece of music by such a group

3 : an act or period of waiting a long wait in line

Keep scrolling for more

Can wait on mean 'to wait for'?: Usage Guide


American dialectologists have evidence showing wait on (sense 3) to be more a Southern than a Northern form in speech. Handbook writers universally denigrate wait on and prescribe wait for in writing. Our evidence from printed sources does not show a regional preference; it does show that the handbooks' advice is not based on current usage. settlement of the big problems still waited on Russia Time I couldn't make out … whether Harper was waiting on me for approval — E. B. White the staggering bill that waited on them at the white commissary downtown — Maya Angelou One reason for the continuing use of wait on may lie in its being able to suggest protracted or irritating waits better than wait for. for two days I've been waiting on weather — Charles A. Lindbergh the boredom of black Africans sitting there, waiting on the whims of a colonial bureaucracy — Vincent Canby doesn't care to sit around waiting on a House that's virtually paralyzed — Glenn A. Briere Wait on is less common than wait for, but if it seems natural, there is no reason to avoid it.

Examples of wait in a Sentence


I hate waiting in long lines. They waited at the train station together. You should have waited a little longer. He showed up right after you left. I don't have time to wait around. If he's not here in five minutes, I'm leaving. She waited behind after class to talk to the professor. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. How may I help you? I waited and waited but he never showed up. Wait! Don't start the engine yet. We waited for the sun to set before starting the fire. I know she was happy when I lost my job. She was waiting to see me fail.


there was a long wait for the manager to come and help us
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After plugging into a PC and running the tool, you'll either get confirmed or denied for an unlock code, and then there might be a waiting period before your code arrives. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "What you need to know before importing that exotic Chinese Android phone," 9 Nov. 2018 Viewers of the film won’t have to wait, however, to get an insider’s view of the very top of the market. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "New Documentary The Price of Everything Reveals the Art World's Best-Kept Secrets," 17 Oct. 2018 The program is being run out of the United States Department of Treasury, and those looking to launch opportunity funds or invest in them are waiting for final guidance from Treasury and the IRS, which is expected by the end of the year. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Opportunity zones: vital community development tool or tax windfall for the rich?," 3 Oct. 2018 At the Boston Marathon, Flanagan pit-stopped at a portable restroom and Linden stopped to wait for her. Rachel Bachman, WSJ, "Now Starring on Marathon Podiums: American Women," 2 Nov. 2018 Microsoft has used the new model to deliver useful new features without forcing users to wait three years for a new major version upgrade. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft’s problem isn’t how often it updates Windows—it’s how it develops it," 20 Oct. 2018 According to Defense News, the testing was set to begin on September 15 but was delayed two months to wait for a software update. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The F-35 Program Is About To Start Pivotal Testing To Prove Its Worth," 19 Oct. 2018 Those in line were expected to wait six to eight hours, the store worker told KDVR. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Build-A-Bear closes lines for 'Pay Your Age' sale at US stores amid chaos," 13 July 2018 The left-handed-hitting, versatile Cory Spangenberg was optioned out for relief depth early this week, forcing the Padres to wait 10 days before recalling him. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Padres' Franmil Reyes savoring teachable moments," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Shot in July on one of the hottest days of the year, Campbell and her mom had to keep the details under wraps for months, but, per Morris-Campbell, the final reveal was well worth the wait. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Naomi Campbell and Matt Smith Toast Burberry’s Holiday Campaign in New York," 20 Nov. 2018 Table packages include all of the above plus access to the VIP table area, a dedicated wait staff, access to the viewing of the celebrity red carpet, and a private table with premium bottle service. Daniela Sternitzky-di Napoli, Houston Chronicle, "Here's what it costs to party with Kate Upton at the 2018 Maxim Hot 100 Experience," 27 June 2018 Some restaurants facing higher labor costs might cut down on wait staff by installing electronic menus at tables for ordering, said Michael Lynn, a professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University. Rachel Feintzeig, WSJ, "What Should Waiters and Bartenders Earn? The Debate Over the Tipped Wage," 14 June 2018 The aim of the new standards is to make baby changing products much safer for kids of all ages — and that's something worth the wait. Lindsey Murray, Good Housekeeping, "New Safety Standards Are Coming for Baby Changing Products — Here's Everything You Need to Know," 25 July 2018 On the night of the killings, Thomas Whitaker's roommate was lying in wait with a loaded gun at the family's suburban Houston home. Tracy Connor, NBC News, "Texas death row inmate Thomas Whitaker could be spared after unusual appeal," 22 Feb. 2018 Those who were able to make it in the story and take advantage of the sale said the wait was all worth it. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Build-A-Bear closes lines for 'Pay Your Age' sale at US stores amid chaos," 13 July 2018 March into a Tesla store and show interest in a $6,000 Powerwall, and you'll be told the wait is six to nine months. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "Burning for Tesla Powerwall? Get ready to wait as Musk's solar vision takes a backseat to Model 3," 13 July 2018 And though Iaconetti’s shed many tears over Haibon over the last three years, the wait was all worth it. Melody Chiu, PEOPLE.com, "Bachelor in Paradise's Ashley Iaconetti Plans to Start a Family with Jared Haibon at 32," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wait.' 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 wait


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for wait


Middle English, from Anglo-French waiter, guaiter to watch over, await, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch, Old English wæccan to watch — more at wake


Middle English waite watchman, observation, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wait

Statistics for wait

Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wait

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for wait



English Language Learners Definition of wait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to stay in a place until an expected event happens, until someone arrives, until it is your turn to do something, etc.

: to not do something until something else happens

: to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon



English Language Learners Definition of wait (Entry 2 of 2)

: a period of time when you must wait


\ˈwāt \
waited; waiting

Kids Definition of wait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to stay in a place looking forward to something that is expected to happen Denmark's fishermen didn't wait for sunny days to take their boats out …— Lois Lowry, Number the Stars

2 : to stop moving or doing something Wait at the door. Wait a second—I have a better idea.

3 : to remain not done or dealt with The chore can wait. There's a package waiting for you.

4 : to serve food as a waiter or waitress



Kids Definition of wait (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act or period of waiting We had a long wait.

2 : a hidden place from which a surprise attack can be made

Hint: This sense of wait is usually used in the expression lie in wait.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on wait

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wait

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wait

Spanish Central: Translation of wait

Nglish: Translation of wait for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wait for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wait

Comments on wait

What made you want to look up wait? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


amusing and light sparring with words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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