\ 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 Some states inspect high-hazard dams every year while others wait up to five years. Washington Post, "AP: Thousands face life-threatening floods from aging dams," 11 Nov. 2019 But after the Tigers handed Alabama a 46-41 loss at home — snapping a 31-game home winning streak — Ingram waited little time to explain what went wrong for Alabama. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Mark Ingram blamed President Trump for Alabama's home loss to LSU," 10 Nov. 2019 An armada of Landing Ship Tanks circled, waiting to take the troops to the beach. oregonlive, "Veterans Day 2019: Remembering Oregon’s 96th Infantry Division," 10 Nov. 2019 Deputies replaced Beineman's body in the ravine with a J.C. Penney mannequin — and waited, expecting the killer to return. Freep.com, "Murders of Michigan women still unsolved 50 years later — but cops had eye on 1 man," 10 Nov. 2019 According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, many victims wait years before receiving any money, and many never received the full amount they were owed. chicagotribune.com, "A 90-year-old North Dakota woman lost $400K — her life savings — to a Jamaican lottery scam. She’s been paid back just $287.," 10 Nov. 2019 Defensively, against a quarterback in Buffalo’s Josh Allen who should be turnover waiting to happen, the Browns didn’t come close to an interception. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "For the Cleveland Browns, nothing is given, even a win is exhausting," 10 Nov. 2019 One Sunday in late October, alumnus Codie Clark, a math tutor, spotted at least two raccoons on the third floor of the library while waiting for a student to arrive for a tutoring session. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Raccoons Take Shelter in Arkansas State University Library," 9 Nov. 2019 Andre Iguodala was sent to Memphis this summer but has not reported to the Grizzlies while waiting to be bought out or traded. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "Where are last season’s Warriors now? How 10 Golden State alumni are faring," 9 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The wait will be worth it, co-founder Brillante said in a statement. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "Black News Channel will launch broadcast in new year on Jan. 6, 2020," 6 Nov. 2019 The wait is over because the Jeffree Star X Shane Dawson Conspiracy Collection is finally here!! Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson's Makeup Collab is Finally Here!," 1 Nov. 2019 For the Davis family, the wait has been frustrating. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Georgia family seeks answers in mother's vaping death," 1 Nov. 2019 For Washington, the wait has been much longer, so what is one more day? Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times, "Nationals Overcome Astros in Game 6 to Extend World Series," 29 Oct. 2019 Finally, about half an hour later, the wait was over. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, azcentral, "The world's largest White Castle — and first in Arizona — is now open near Scottsdale," 23 Oct. 2019 For the remaining passengers, the wait should be no more than a few days. Natasha Frost, Quartz, "Nearly 55,000 Thomas Cook customers are still stranded overseas," 29 Sep. 2019 The wait is over with Jimmy Lee, a soulful love letter to his brother, who lost his battle with drugs. Cori Murray, Essence, "The C LIST: Cori's Must Sees, Dos and Reads in September," 24 Sep. 2019 For all of you fans of the series, the long wait is over. Jane Napier Neely, La Cañada Valley Sun, "The Valley Line: Pass the scissors: LCF Chamber hosts its own ribbon-cutting," 17 Sep. 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

14 Nov 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).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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