\ 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 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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb People wait to get a dose of the Covishield vaccine in New Delhi on May 4, 2021. Dr. Monica Gandhi, Time, "The Most Important Thing Rich Countries Can Do to Help India Fight COVID-19," 5 May 2021 Customers don’t have to schedule and wait for a delivery slot or create a basket online first. Lorraine Mirabella, baltimoresun.com, "Robomart, planning a Baltimore presence, says ‘hail a store’ retail offers a new way to shop," 4 May 2021 Those anthropology major requirements weren’t going to wait on my emotional well-being — although my professors were incredibly accommodating, thank goodness, despite administrative nonchalance. Johnny Hayes Writer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Commentary: Wrestling with the ghosts of COVID past," 2 May 2021 As Votto rounded the bases, Eugenio Suárez skipped out of the dugout to wait for him at home plate. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, "Joey Votto hits 300th career homer, receives standing ovation from Reds fans," 1 May 2021 Crematoria are so overcrowded that workers are building makeshift funeral pyres in car parks, where grieving families wait for up to 20 hours for access. Prachi Gupta, The Atlantic, "Indian Americans Are Stuck Between Hope and Despair," 1 May 2021 Employers are desperate for workers because so many workers would rather stay home to wait for government financial assistance than work for a living, Carlos Joaquin says. Dallas News, "This immigrant is working hard and saving money, but desperately misses his home," 30 Apr. 2021 Instead of being upset about having to wait an extra week for a new episode, fans on social media seem much more fixated on the idea of soon seeing Japril together. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Grey's Anatomy' Fans, Try Not to Be Too Crushed Over This Season 17 Episode Announcement," 30 Apr. 2021 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise patients who need to get other vaccinations to also wait for their COVID-19 vaccine for 14 days. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Here are the reasons Utahns aren’t getting the vaccine — but we’re here to help," 30 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But if the lesson of Byron Buxton teaches the Rangers anything, it’s that the work is worth the wait. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "How Twins CF Byron Buxton’s MLB journey offers Rangers insight into Leody Taveras’ development," 6 May 2021 For Rebecca Smith, receiving a master's in criminology and criminal justice, this moment was worth the wait. Nienke Onneweer, The Arizona Republic, "Inside the small, alternative graduation ceremonies ASU is hosting for spring graduates," 6 May 2021 As one of the last 2020 films to debut — well into 2021, in fact — Judas was worth the wait. Joe Reid, Vulture, "Every 2021 Oscar-Nominated Movie, Ranked," 21 Apr. 2021 Yet, for those who are enterprise builders or in extreme growth mode, the long-term potential of monetizing real enterprise value may be well worth the wait. Mindy Diamond, Forbes, "Financial Advisors: 10 Reasons Why Independence May Not Be Right For You," 16 Apr. 2021 If the Ravens can afford to take on a more developmental prospect next season, the 6-5, 313-pound Hudson might prove worth the wait. Jonas Shaffer, baltimoresun.com, "Ravens draft preview: Why a highly rated ILB, blocking TE and versatile RB could be surprise picks," 14 Apr. 2021 After everything else fans weathered throughout this wacky season, a few more days might finally deliver a national championship game worth the wait. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Final Four set. Now, the big question: Can anybody beat Gonzaga?," 31 Mar. 2021 His arrival was certainly worth the wait, and just as worthy of Handel’s heralding. Hannah Edgar, chicagotribune.com, "Review: A reunion with Jane Glover and riveting Mozart at Music of the Baroque," 30 Mar. 2021 The World Health Organization on Tuesday finally released its report on the origins of the coronavirus, and the result wasn’t worth the wait. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Wuhan Whitewash," 30 Mar. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for wait

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for wait

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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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 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.

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Comments on wait

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