\ 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 NBC News Entrance Poll: Late deciders in Iowa support Biden, Buttigieg More than 1 in 10 Iowa Democratic caucusgoers waited until Monday to decide who to support this year, NBC News Entrance Poll data show. NBC News, "An inside look at how caucusgoers lobby undecided voters," 4 Feb. 2020 Most players are no longer waiting until the traditional signing day — the first Wednesday in February — to send in their letters of intent, and many programs have that bulk of their recruiting classes signed, sealed and delivered by mid-December. Tom Green | Tgreen@al.com, al, "What’s left for Auburn to do on National Signing Day?," 4 Feb. 2020 While the app was available to caucus organizers for downloading on their smartphones a few days earlier, some waited until Monday to do so and encountered difficulties in following the instructions or received error messages. Anchorage Daily News, "Avalanche of issues takes out Iowa plan for high-tech caucus," 4 Feb. 2020 Last night, some precinct officials even waited on hold for an hour to report the results—and got hung up on. Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic, "Who Needs the Russians?," 4 Feb. 2020 Neither did one of the cornerbacks waiting behind him, Denzel Ward. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Where will Ohio State football’s Jeff Okudah be taken in NFL Draft 2020?," 4 Feb. 2020 Their fans had waited all night for that connection. Sean Gregory, Time, "Patrick Mahomes Led the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl Comeback. He Also Affirmed His Greatness," 3 Feb. 2020 Tillman’s wait for his son’s birth and Winston still coping with the death of his brother, Zachary. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball vs. Penn State, 'hottest team' in Big Ten: Scouting report, pick," 3 Feb. 2020 Not long after stepping out of Our Lady Queen of Angels, Bryant waited to board a chartered helicopter at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Ray Sanchez, CNN, "Kobe Bryant was a living legend. In his final hours, he was an ordinary dad and friend," 2 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The wait is finally over; the 2020 Super Bowl kicks off this evening and in the world of sports betting, today is the biggest day of the year. Brian Rudd, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "2020 Super Bowl will be huge for sports betting," 2 Feb. 2020 The wait is finally over for former Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Former Colts RB Edgerrin James will be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," 1 Feb. 2020 Fans of The Masked Singer have been anxiously awaiting season 3 of the celebrity singing competition, and the wait is almost over. Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Who Is the Swan on 'The Masked Singer'? Fans' Guesses Are All Over the Place," 1 Feb. 2020 Camila Cabello finally walked down the red carpet of the 2020 Grammy Awards and the wait was totally worth it. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Camila Cabello Walked Down the 2020 Grammy Awards Red Carpet with a Date That's Not Shawn Mendes," 27 Jan. 2020 Ironically, my wait was made way better by this extremely un-vegan book. Soleil Ho, SFChronicle.com, "Wait in line at that new restaurant? Bring these books along," 20 Jan. 2020 His wait ended Saturday against the Minnesota Wild, ending a season-and-a-half absence because of post-traumatic headaches. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "‘This is the day I’ve looked forward to’: Stephen Johns to make NHL return after 22-month absence," 18 Jan. 2020 The wait may be too long for Mike Joseph, a lifelong resident of Yeadiss, an unincorporated community in rural Leslie County. Alfred Miller, ProPublica, "They Were Promised Broadband and High-Tech Jobs. They’re Still Waiting.," 15 Jan. 2020 The current wait for a police report or record is 10 months to one year, Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll said in an interview. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "A Midtown hotel melee, a permanent scar and an endless quest for criminal charges," 20 Jan. 2020

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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Learn More about wait

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

7 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for wait


How to pronounce wait (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on wait

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wait

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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