wait

verb
\ ˈwāt How to pronounce wait (audio) \

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

wait

noun

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

Verb

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

Extending the state waiting period will give federal authorities more time for the background checks. USA TODAY, "Disney surprise, foreign feral hogs, porous pavement: News from around our 50 states," 13 Sep. 2019 Likewise, a ten-day waiting period may be imposed on gun buyers who have just passed a background check and who already own another gun. David B. Kopel, National Review, "Heller’s Precarious Situation," 12 Sep. 2019 After suffering a hamstring injury, the defender tweaked a quad and was still waiting on results Tuesday to decide on the best course of action moving forward. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City embraces high stakes as Lions chase playoff bid," 12 Sep. 2019 Can’t wait to honor these men by watching the movie! Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign," 11 Sep. 2019 Chief among them are avoiding the costs of waiting too long. Eric Roston, Fortune, "The Massive Cost of Not Adapting to Climate Change," 10 Sep. 2019 Then, the officer must go home and wait to be cleared to return to duty and for officials to determine whether the shooting was legally sound. AZCentral.com, "Police shootings in Arizona," 10 Sep. 2019 There, resident Marilyn Laing got tired of waiting for officials to show up and instead organized her own relief system, with water and food delivered by friends and family members. Patrick Oppmann, Jaide Timm-garcia And Jose Armijo, CNN, "'Grand Bahama is dead': A firsthand look at Dorian's destruction," 9 Sep. 2019 As the 2018 election neared, Ms. Warren’s big money was partly bankrolling an apparent 2020 apparatus in waiting. Shane Goldmacher, New York Times, "How Elizabeth Warren Raised Big Money Before She Denounced Big Money," 9 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The video took three months and was worth the wait: The world saw Morten Harket’s heroic cheekbones and swooned. Rob Tannenbaum, Los Angeles Times, "‘Taaaake onnn meee!’ The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s ‘80s classic," 16 Sep. 2019 While certainly helpful to that man in 17C who had one too many sodas, the data will also show airlines the length of wait times on various flights, and on different aircraft types. Justin Bachman / Bloomberg, Time, "The Next Generation of Airbus Aircraft Will Track Your Bathroom Visits," 12 Sep. 2019 Posted wait times ranged from 45 minutes to 1 hour on Saturday morning. Dewayne Bevil, orlandosentinel.com, "Disney World passholders begin to explore Star Wars land," 17 Aug. 2019 The al fresco party area, however, took a bit more time — but was well worth the wait. Lennie Omalza, The Courier-Journal, "Al fresco backyard makes this St. Matthews home an entertainment mecca," 25 July 2019 Since the monsoon season ends in October, this could mean up to a four-month wait. Radhika Viswanathan, Vox, "The 4 risky options to rescue the Thai boys trapped in a cave, explained," 7 July 2018 And with that acclaim came lines — long, long lines with wait times extending to five hours or more. San Antonio Express-News, "52 Weeks of BBQ: Naming the best of the best San Antonio barbecue," 30 Aug. 2019 What if there’s a shortage of staff because several of the wait staff are out with the flu? Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, "How much to tip when the service is bad," 29 Aug. 2019 The airport has matured and is operating very smoothly, with reasonable wait times at security, a wide variety of dining options on the concourses and reliable baggage and transport systems. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: A fair deal at Kaiser; No need to renovate DIA; Keeping foreign automakers out of federal contracts (8/29/19)," 29 Aug. 2019

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

Verb

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

Noun

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

History and Etymology for wait

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

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Statistics for wait

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

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

wait

verb

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

wait

noun

English Language Learners Definition of wait (Entry 2 of 2)

: a period of time when you must wait

wait

verb
\ 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

wait

noun

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wait

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

Comments on wait

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