\ 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

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 Saudi Arabia, burnt by Washington’s bait-and-switch on sanctions waivers last year, has every reason to wait for early signs of tightness in oil markets translating into meaningfully higher prices this summer. Washington Post, "Oil Seems Remarkably Relaxed as Global Tensions Rise," 18 Sep. 2019 That didn't happen, but Innes said that the People's Bank of China might want to wait for the Federal Reserve's policy decision later this week before making more plans for economic stimulus. Laura He, CNN, "Oil prices are pulling back a little but investors remain wary," 17 Sep. 2019 Maybe a year is too much time to wait in a shipping crate. Dina Nayeri, Time, "Waiting is a Boot on Your Neck: How Refugees Summon Joy and Why They Hide It From Us," 17 Sep. 2019 Remember these tips: Do not mix different products together, do not smoke in your car or near the collection area, be prepared to wait between five and 30 minutes and bring something to read for yourself and a game or toy to entertain your child. courant.com, "Community News For The West Hartford Edition," 16 Sep. 2019 And as Baltimore continues to thrive, and perhaps as Cleveland hits its stride, the Steelers won’t be able to wait on a gradual progression from their young quarterback. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Steelers' Mike Tomlin faces ultimate test after Ben Roethlisberger's injury," 16 Sep. 2019 In recent months, the extreme overcrowding on the border has begun to ease, with migrants turned away and made to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. New York Times, "‘People Actively Hate Us’: Inside the Border Patrol’s Morale Crisis," 15 Sep. 2019 Over the last year, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been sent to Tijuana to wait for their immigration court hearings under the Migrant Protection Protocols program —more commonly known as Remain in Mexico. Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Daycare center for asylum-seeking families in Tijuana lets kids be kids again," 15 Sep. 2019 Alexiades sees impressive results with the Pico Second laser featuring Enlighten technology, but advises to wait one month after the last sun exposure to receive the treatment. Elycia Rubin, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Skin Experts Advise How To Repair Sun Damage After Summer Break," 15 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There’s often a wait for a table at the main Duff’s location. Melissa Rayworth, Houston Chronicle, "Eating along New York state’s ‘Buffalo Wing Trail’," 13 Sep. 2019 The wait for food during the lunch rush often reached 30 minutes. Janelle Bitker, SFChronicle.com, "Huli Huli Hawaiian Grill to become Sunday Gather. The transition hasn’t exactly been smooth," 3 Sep. 2019 Wait times for rides around the Universal parks remained low into the afternoon, with five- and 10-minute waits for popular rides, such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Trevor Fraser, orlandosentinel.com, "Hurricane Dorian doesn’t deter Disney, Universal visitors," 1 Sep. 2019 Our aging population has exposed that freezing the supply of specialist physicians is an Rx for long waits, inflated prices, and an unhealthier America. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Trouble Seeing a Specialist? Here’s What’s Driving the ‘Doctor Draught’," 15 July 2019 Sherri Telnas, 45, who was arraigned last week, had already faced one count of murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait, the report said. Fox News, "Second son dies after mom’s alleged drowning attempt, cops say," 8 July 2019 The rematch was just about worth the five-year wait, as Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal probed each other’s characters and explored the borders of their own talents in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Fall for Nick Kyrgios’s Bag of Tricks," 4 July 2019 And so Orion tests, and waits, and tests some more. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "The Orion spacecraft flew Tuesday morning, and it looked pretty spectacular," 2 July 2019 Dropping ridership follows years of complaints about bus routes that are rarely as fast or reliable as driving and often require long waits, multiple transfers and delays in rush-hour traffic. Laura J. Nelson, latimes.com, "L.A. is hemorrhaging bus riders — worsening traffic and hurting climate goals," 27 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

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for wait

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

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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

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).


to spread as a report or rumor

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