wait

1 of 2

verb

waited; waiting; waits

transitive verb

1
: to stay in place in expectation of : await
waited the result of the advertisementW. 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

1
a
: to remain stationary in readiness or expectation
wait for a train
b
: to pause for another to catch up
usually used with up
2
a
: 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
4
a
: 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 Busch
So wait, what's so bad about wanting to eat right?Annie Daly
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.

wait

2 of 2

noun

1
a
: 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 fishingFred Zimmer
2
a
: 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
Phrases
wait on or less commonly wait upon
1
a
: 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

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
During the waiting time, the children undergo an appetite test, where each child is provided with a sachet of RUTF if severely malnourished, or Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) if moderately malnourished. Unicef Usa, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 On February 5, an UNRWA truck waiting to take aid into northern Gaza was hit by Israeli naval gunfire, the agency said, adding that no one was injured. Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 11 Feb. 2024 Fans of The Bear won’t have to wait much longer to get back in the kitchen as FX announced that Season 3 will arrive in June. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 10 Feb. 2024 When the group finally reaches the crossing, a motor coach full of campers is already waiting. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, 10 Feb. 2024 The rest were given until Dec. 1, 2024, and L.A. County could have waited, but the Board of Supervisors voted for an earlier rollout. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2024 As jurors met for a second day to decide Pursehouse's fate, the waiting for a verdict began to weigh heavily on the prosecution. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, 10 Feb. 2024 Alternatives: There’s a cellphone parking lot where people can park for free while waiting to pick someone up from the airport. Vinod Sreeharsha, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024 The gradually widening rift between him and Natalie, who would increasingly rather forgo their own campaign and wait for a national union to ally with them, is closely and compellingly mapped, and the film’s sympathies feel evenly split between them. Guy Lodge, Variety, 29 Jan. 2024
Noun
Each of the new or revamped spaces will have hundreds of seats for travelers, aiming to alleviate concerns of overcrowding and prevent long wait times. To help tackle the overcrowding issue in its lounges, Delta announced new Sky Club entry rules for its credit card holders last fall. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, 8 Feb. 2024 As The Star reported Wednesday, the Police Department is the only public safety agency in the metro area that fails to meet national standards for 911 wait times, while paying less to starting call takers than many local agencies. Glenn E. Rice, Kansas City Star, 7 Feb. 2024 The wait for the return of Love Is Blind is almost over! Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 7 Feb. 2024 Skip the paper, file electronically Many of the headaches that taxpayers encounter, including easily avoidable errors and long wait times for refunds, could be sidestepped if everyone filed electronically and used direct deposit. Jill Schlesinger, The Mercury News, 5 Feb. 2024 Even on a chilly Monday evening, the wait at Cho Dang Gol was more than an hour. Priya Krishna, New York Times, 5 Feb. 2024 The wait is over for Schoolboy Q fans, as he’s officially announced his first project in five years. Michael Saponara, Billboard, 1 Feb. 2024 But even after Senegal’s offshore gas field begins producing in coming months, many Senegalese could still have a long wait ahead. Rachel Chason, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2024 Putin may calculate Ukraine would face a long wait and be vulnerable to opposition from individual European leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Slovakia’s new premier, Robert Fico, who has vowed to veto Kyiv’s application to NATO. Bloomberg.com, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wait.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

Noun

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near wait

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

wait

1 of 2 verb
1
a
: to remain in place in readiness or expectation of something : await
wait your turn
wait for orders
b
: to pause to let someone catch up
hey, wait for me
2
: postpone, delay
wait dinner for a guest
3
: to serve as a waiter or waitress
wait tables
wait at a luncheon

wait

2 of 2 noun
1
a
: a hidden position : ambush
used chiefly in the expression lie in wait
b
: a state of watchful expectation
2
: an act or period of waiting
a long wait in line

More from Merriam-Webster on wait

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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