\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

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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


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But American companies won’t need to wait for Chinese retaliation to feel the sting of Donald Trump’s trade war — because some of the president’s own tariffs will actually fall on American firms. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "On Eve of Trade War, China Warns That Trump’s Tariffs Will Backfire," 5 July 2018 The prosecutor said the victim waited 15 months before hiring a civil lawyer. Marc Freeman, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Deputy convicted of attempted rape," 13 July 2018 Still, hostesses tell us the people at the end of this line have a 30- to 35-minute wait. star-telegram, "A day in the life of Joe T. Garcia's," 11 July 2018 Around 20 people in the United States die every day waiting for a replacement organ. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "This Patch of 3D-Printed Flesh Is a Step Toward a Full 3D-Printed Heart," 3 July 2018 But rescuers were focused on three possibilities: diving, drilling and waiting. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post, "‘Time is running out’: Inside the treacherous rescue of boys trapped in a Thai cave," 13 July 2018 Croatia, with four million people and 27 removed from independence, has never made it this far, but has a proud and passionate homeland waiting to explode into a celebration of monumental scope. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "How the World Cup final between France and Croatia will be won," 13 July 2018 Instead, 30 people crowd in and around the garage waiting for Brice to sign them in, and more people arrive every minute. Nyssa Kruse, courant.com, "CRT Volunteer George Brice Helps The Hungry, 'Rain Or Shine'," 12 July 2018 The process of cleansing natural curls is kind of like making a soufflé: A lot of waiting around and temperature adjustments are involved in order to keep coils defined and frizz-free. Devon Abelman, Allure, "11 Curl-Washing Tips From Real Women With Kinky-Curly Hair," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Applicants may face a wait of up to two years to qualify for housing, but placing their name on the list will ensure they are notified of any openings in one of the town’s four housing complexes, housing authority Director Allen Harrison said. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "Waiting List Open For Southington Housing Authority Apartments," 13 July 2018 The store had not yet closed its line, but store employees expected customers at the end of the line to have a four to six hour wait. Jessica Suriano, azcentral, "Build-A-Bear halts 'Pay Your Age' sale as hundreds in metro Phoenix wait in line," 12 July 2018 The average wait for those three Democratic nominees was 65 days. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Senate Deadline for Kavanaugh," 10 July 2018 The wait will continue until an accord is met or another team intervenes, with conversations continuing in the interim. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "With recent additions, Bucks starting to take shape," 9 July 2018 The wait gives people plenty of time to watch the cooks pour the batter into huge roasting pans turned deep fryers, worn and black from open fire and time. Illyanna Maisonet, SFChronicle.com, "Bacalaitos as familial memory and penance," 5 July 2018 Sometimes there’s a 40-minute wait for an outside table when there are six tables open on the inside. Bruce Ingram, Lake County News-Sun, "Guide to outdoor dining in Chicago suburbs: The Tropics in Winthrop Harbor," 5 July 2018 Apple’s digital music platforms were first with the release and Twitter wanted to know why the wait for a wide rollout. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Drake Drops 'Scorpion': Fans React," 29 June 2018 The wait makes sense: Each episode of Westworld is a cinematic experience. refinery29.com, "When Does Westworld Return For Season 3?," 25 June 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.

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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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Statistics for wait

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wait

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

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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 \
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

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


one that holds something together

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