\ 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

There’s a new way to make Amazon returns without waiting in line at the post office or packing up the unwanted item. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Have an Amazon return to send back? Kohl's stores are now accepting Amazon returns," 8 July 2019 The Lakers aren't going to disappear, the Jazz are loaded, the Nuggets and Rockets will return almost everyone, the Warriors will be scary when Klay gets back, and the Bucks and Sixers will be waiting in the East all year. Andrew Sharp, SI.com, "Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers Is a Massive Win for the NBA," 6 July 2019 At least two people died waiting in the gasoline lines that followed. Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, "A Fuel Shortage Is Crippling Agriculture in Venezuela," 6 July 2019 His travel itinerary called for a trip to the Angels complex in Tempe, where pitcher Matt Harvey was scheduled to wait this week in between rehabilitation outings. Andy Mccullough, latimes.com, "Angels pitcher Matt Harvey rejoins team as his rehabilitation continues," 5 July 2019 He was left waiting in the on-deck circle in the ninth with Robbie Grossman on second, after Grossman had doubled in Khris Davis and Ramon Loreano. Evan Webeck, The Mercury News, "Brett Anderson gets Athletics off to great start in win over Mariners," 5 July 2019 Today, vintage Good Humor trucks can be found across the country, in operation by other nostalgia peddlers or waiting in dealers’ barns. Ron Hurtibise, sun-sentinel.com, "With much Good Humor, vintage ice cream trucks serve nostalgia on a stick," 4 July 2019 The two entered the home on Pittsburgh Avenue near South 65th Street around midnight, while a third man waited outside in a vehicle, police said. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, "3 arrested in home-invasion robbery in Skyline," 3 July 2019 Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and fans were stuck waiting in the hot summer heat hoping to get in. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Tana Mongeau Finally Reveals What Really Went Wrong With TanaCon," 1 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Fans complained of hour-long wait times to purchase merchandise, lack of staffing and early closing of stands. Alicia Delgallo And Ashley Scoby, Pro Soccer USA, "USWNT World Cup victory tour begins in August," 8 July 2019 Aside from having a great wait staff and delicious food, the interactive dining experience at Kkoki makes for quite a social affair and is ideal for group gatherings. Gerry Frank, oregonlive.com, "Grill and chill at a Korean barbecue restaurant: Gerry Frank’s picks," 7 July 2019 On a recent Saturday, the wait staff struck back, lifting their shirts to reveal their bras in an attempt to push back the religiously conservative demonstrators. Washington Post, "How the battle of bra-baring waitresses and ultra-religious protesters explains Israel’s political crisis," 10 June 2019 The Club Level will augment the Hop Yard and the Luxe Golf Bays with a to-order menu with wait staff. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Franklin's Ballpark Commons will have a Leinenkugel beer garden with unlimited food and drinks," 4 June 2019 One of the world’s biggest music festivals caught a singer at peak powers, and Grande was worth the wait in Indianapolis. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "Ariana Grande brings one pop banger after another to Bankers Life Fieldhouse," 29 May 2019 Even the wait staff, in their red jackets and black ties, seem timeless. Rico Gagliano, WSJ, "This Iconic Hollywood Restaurant Lets You Travel Back in Time," 13 Feb. 2019 But criminal justice reform advocates — and the public defender’s office — are taking a wait-and-see approach with the new charging tool. Taylor Kate Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: ‘Blind’ justice in SF — via machine learning?," 13 June 2019 The official noted the White House planned to take a wait-and-see approach, leaving enough room to force another negotiation if the president finds Mexico’s actions ineffective. NBC News, "Texas border town feels stress of Trump tariff threat against Mexico," 10 June 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

11 Jul 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

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food or victuals

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