\ 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



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

Slide the roasting pan into the oven, close the door, and wait! Charlyne Mattox, Country Living, "How to Perfectly Cook a 20-Pound Thanksgiving Turkey," 16 Aug. 2019 Photographers want to find these lines naturally in the frame, compose around them, and wait for the perfect instant—the decisive moment—to suspend that moment in time. Kristen Mcnicholas, National Geographic, "Your best photos of the week, August 16, 2019," 16 Aug. 2019 La Cañada Elementary School students waited for new asphalt in the play area to cure and accommodated the installation of perimeter fencing, while students at Paradise Canyon enjoyed new lunch shelters for the first time. Sara Cardine, La Cañada Valley Sun, "La Cañada Unified students receive warm welcome to 2019-20 school year," 15 Aug. 2019 In less than two days, researchers on board the ship were able to confirm the presence of great whites without having to wait for one to surface and show off its telltale fin. Amanda Paulson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Message in a bottle: Forensics meets marine science with eDNA," 15 Aug. 2019 Since then, tBP and the board had been waiting for approval from the Division of the State Architect, which was granted this past March. Andrew J. Campa, Glendale News-Press, "Costly Glendale High School pool appears headed toward reality," 9 Aug. 2019 Midday, sit at a cafe and wait for the light to be nice. Natalie B. Compton, The Know, "Photographers spill their tips for capturing the best shots while traveling," 6 Aug. 2019 Each one sat on a stalk and held dark brown spores waiting to be released. Cori Brown, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Cori Brown: Creepy beauty can be found in the woods," 17 Aug. 2019 In a response to the town hall, San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro said the state can’t wait until the next legislative session in 2021 for change. Allie Morris And Benjamin Wermund, ExpressNews.com, "Gov. Abbott: No special session on guns, red flag laws," 16 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 This wait time is a result of immigration law reforms that were made in 1965. Justice Amick, Indianapolis Star, "'Driven by desperation': Fleeing hunger and despair in Mexico to a new life as a Hoosier," 22 Aug. 2019 Jenny had everything organized down to the last detail, including the outfits (yes, there were multiple) for herself, the Blue Bloods star, and even the wait staff, according to Page Six. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Donnie Wahlberg’s Wife Jenny McCarthy Threw Him the Most Insane 50th Birthday Party," 21 Aug. 2019 The wait staff was well accustomed to treating their longtime guest with deference and offered us a private nook. Sam Patten, WIRED, "Kostya and Me: How Sam Patten Got Ensnared in Mueller’s Probe," 14 Aug. 2019 The tables have thick white tablecloths and hefty cutlery, and the wait staff is courteous and attentive. Coco Mccabe, BostonGlobe.com, "Dal Mare in Beverly Farms offers a classic night out," 7 Aug. 2019 The restaurant has preserved its original decor, maintained a similar menu throughout its 100-year run and even still has an all-male wait staff that wears red jackets with black lapels. Los Angeles Times, "Experience the L.A. captured in ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’," 26 July 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


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

22 Aug 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



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

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

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


readily or continually undergoing change

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