\ 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 Morales waits for another surgery to repair damage from the helicopter fire. courier-journal.com, "'I thought I was going to die': Officer hunting El Mencho becomes his prey in rocket attack," 25 Nov. 2019 But the longer customers waited, the lower that price became. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Want to save a little green? Don't buy your live Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving," 25 Nov. 2019 On the rods with Ambassadeur reels, wait till the rod bends over then grab it out of the holder and start reeling. Bill May, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Bill May: Searching for Potomac blue catfish," 24 Nov. 2019 The Bears, however, waited to put him on injured reserve until Oct. 15. Rich Campbell, chicagotribune.com, "Ryan Pace says the Bears are ‘really optimistic’ about Akiem Hicks’ progress toward returning from injured reserve," 24 Nov. 2019 Cal had waited 10 years to hold the Stanford Axe, so a 30-minute delay was no problem. Rusty Simmons, SFChronicle.com, "Cal ends Big Game losing skid, qualifies for bowl with win over Stanford," 23 Nov. 2019 Between hand-washing, dry air, and the inevitable exposure to the elements (sure, gloves are great, but sometimes a text message just can't wait) all take their toll, ravaging your cuticles and leaving them split and peeling. Allure, "The 14 Best Cuticle Treatments for Fighting Winter Dryness," 23 Nov. 2019 In 2018, paramedics spent 160,000 hours in Maryland ERs waiting, according to Delbridge. John Diedrich, jsonline.com, "Some busy hospitals say they must turn away ambulances. Here's how one state banned the practice," 22 Nov. 2019 While chatting with Denver media, Allen waited until the final minute of the teleconference to show his true colors and reveal his feisty nature. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla: Would Broncos be better off with Bradley Chubb or Josh Allen on their team? That’s an easy answer.," 20 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The long wait — 2,926 days, according to the Michigan Stadium scoreboard — was finally over, thanks to a dominant performance by quarterback Denard Robinson. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "How Michigan football (and Ohio State) bounced back from their most brutal rivalry losses," 24 Nov. 2019 Maryland has the highest ER wait time of any state, trailing only Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to federal data on hospital wait-times analyzed by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization. John Diedrich, jsonline.com, "Some busy hospitals say they must turn away ambulances. Here's how one state banned the practice," 22 Nov. 2019 Years-long wait for gamblers as tribe settles legal disputes Gamblers have been waiting years for the full casino to open. Jen Fifield, azcentral, "Much bigger Desert Diamond Casino near Glendale hiring 1,300 now for February opening," 19 Nov. 2019 Now, after a long wait, da Vinci’s wine is ready to drink. The Economist, "Leonardo da Vinci’s personal vineyard has been re-created," 14 Nov. 2019 There is almost always a wait, with or without a reservation, and there is almost always a long line of supplicants against the wall. New York Times, "Peter Luger Used to Sizzle. Now It Sputters.," 29 Oct. 2019 During high season, use this entrance to avoid long waits, and pay park fees at the visitor center for even faster entry. Shawnté Salabert, Outside Online, "The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park Travel Guide," 28 Oct. 2019 And, after a long wait, gamers who wanted to play one of the top mobile titles this year finally got their hands on Mario Kart Tour from Nintendo. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Apple Has Already Updated Last Week’s iOS 13 Update. Should You?," 28 Sep. 2019 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

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

28 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waiting%20on. Accessed 9 December 2019.

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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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