\ ˈwāt How to pronounce wait (audio) \
waited; waiting; waits

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 food and drinks to the people sitting at : to act as a server 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

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

Verb 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. Noun there was a long wait for the manager to come and help us See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb McCraw on Tuesday at a Texas Senate hearing accused Arredondo of ordering police to wait for unnecessary equipment and keys to a door that may not have been locked as suspected. Travis Caldwell And Rosa Flores, CNN, 23 June 2022 With law enforcement facing backlash over the decision to wait for around an hour for backup instead of moving on the gunman as the school shooting unfolded, McGraw said the lives of police officers were valued over those of young children that day. Chantal Da Silva, NBC News, 22 June 2022 The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween, while Linus skips trick-or-treating to wait for the Great Pumpkin. Elizabeth Berry, Woman's Day, 22 June 2022 Property owners under 50 can afford to wait for the next upcycle if the market sees a significant correction. Zenger News, Forbes, 22 June 2022 Rather than rehab the knee and wait for a better draft outcome, Siragusa bet on himself. Nate Atkins, The Indianapolis Star, 22 June 2022 All of the novels are remarkably fast-paced; Hermans, who claimed to have written serious novels disguised as entertainment, clearly doesn’t believe in making the reader wait long for something dramatic to happen. Francine Prose, Harper’s Magazine , 22 June 2022 McCraw has stated that Arredondo was the incident commander at the scene and decided to wait for more firepower, tactical gear, and keys to open the classroom door, even though the door was actually unlocked. Ashley Soriano, Fox News, 22 June 2022 But with the observed Juneteenth holiday Monday, parents may need to wait. Jordan Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Already, clinic closures are leading to long wait lists at open clinics, which has caused some patients to travel far to receive care. New York Times, 15 June 2022 The family can apply for affordable housing programs, but the wait lists are notoriously long. Moving out of the city proved daunting since the family had no car and no job lined up elsewhere and couldn’t easily scrape together moving expenses. Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 June 2022 Wait for names to come up on never ending wait lists. Laura Jaworski, BostonGlobe.com, 31 May 2022 Builders have helped shoppers lock in mortgage-interest rates in recent months, but their wait lists of prospective buyers have been shrinking, Mr. Burns said. Nicole Friedman, WSJ, 24 May 2022 Their followings and client wait lists are scaling up, but many still handle production in apartments, not professional kitchens. Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit, 10 May 2022 More than 100,000 people sit on organ transplant wait lists and many, like Bennett, never qualify at all. Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY, 5 May 2022 For almost a year, long wait lists for electric vehicles have been common, and the war in Ukraine has further disrupted production. Nik Popli, Time, 3 May 2022 Clinicians in private practice told me that their pre-pandemic wait lists had become much longer, in large part because their existing patients weren’t leaving. Judith Warner, Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About wait

Time Traveler for wait

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

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Dictionary Entries Near wait

waist sheet



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Last Updated

25 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for wait


\ ˈwāt How to pronounce wait (audio) \
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on wait

Nglish: Translation of wait for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wait for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wait


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