\ ˈwāt How to pronounce wait (audio) \
waited; waiting; waits

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 Take a sugary liquid, add sugar-eating yeast, and wait. Parker Hall, Wired, "Everything You Need To Make Beer, Wine, Cider, and Mead," 11 July 2020 Until Friday, Trump had mostly focused his efforts on reopening elementary and secondary schools as millions of parents wait to find out if their children will be in school this fall. Collin Binkley, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump threatens to pull tax exemption for schools, colleges," 11 July 2020 While Nebraska is not experiencing the surge in cases being seen in other states, some of its health care providers and testing sites are reporting a shortage of testing supplies and longer wait times for test results. USA TODAY, "Post-rally surge, PPE stocks, antibody study: News from around our 50 states," 11 July 2020 Crow said in May that the university would wait to spend the coronavirus relief funds to focus on helping students stay in college. Grace Oldham, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona State University announces plans to distribute CARES Act funds to students," 11 July 2020 Charney also disputed the assertion that the company had attempted to prevent health officials from entering the factory for inspection, saying they were only asked to wait until the firm's legal counsel could arrive on site. Sarah Moon And Jon Passantino, CNN, "Los Angeles Apparel factory ordered closed after over 300 coronavirus cases and 4 deaths," 11 July 2020 The driver contacted the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, known as DIFS, to learn whether the insurance company could in fact require its customers to wait. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Auto insurance companies wrongly telling drivers to wait for savings," 10 July 2020 Those woes largely had been corrected Thursday, as the testing site ran more smoothly and wait times shortened, city spokeswoman Cary Zayas said. Peggy O’hare, ExpressNews.com, "‘Tsunami’ of COVID cases crushing Hidalgo County," 10 July 2020 Fletcher’s encourages patrons to practice safe social distancing at their pop-ups and to send only one person per house to wait in line. Audrey Eads, Dallas News, "Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs brings State Fair food to you at D-FW pop-up events," 10 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pre-registration is expected to speed up transactions and reduce wait times, White's office said. Brett Rowland, Washington Examiner, "Illinois secretary of state extends expiration dates for licenses, plate renewals to Nov. 1," 9 July 2020 Similar wait times were seen in New Orleans and Austin. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "The US is about to reach 3 million coronavirus cases. Here's what happened in the days leading up to it," 8 July 2020 In the past few weeks, the wait list for some e-books topped 1,200 people. Washington Post, "Demand for anti-racist literature is up. These black bookstore owners hope it lasts.," 2 July 2020 The city recommended pre-registering to reduce wait times. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "Long waits and confusion at Anchorage’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site," 26 June 2020 The wait for results through commercial or clinical labs can be even longer. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al, "How long does it take to get coronavirus test results back?," 10 July 2020 For Jackson and other K2 veterans who suffer ailments that may have appeared after their service, the wait may be too long. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Toxic exposures of post-9/11 service members revealed in declassified K2 documents," 10 July 2020 Fontes, who assumed office after a fumbled presidential preference election in 2016 by the former county recorder pledged to simplify the voting process and eradicate long wait times. Jessica Boehm, The Arizona Republic, "Who is running for Maricopa County recorder? Fontes faces two Republican challengers," 10 July 2020 The wait is on for history buffs and preservation advocates in Mesquite, who are awaiting the results of their application with the Texas Historical Commission for a Subject Marker at Mesquite High School. Jon Arnold, Dallas News, "Mesquite hoping for special designation from the state," 9 July 2020

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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Learn More about wait

Time Traveler for wait

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for wait

Last Updated

30 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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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

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