\ 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 For the average citizen, there isn’t much to do now but wait, make sure your aunt doesn’t get bamboozled into voting on the wrong day, and consider voting early or by mail. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, "How Online Extremists Could Interfere With the Election," 20 Oct. 2020 Spencer Torkelson's two-strike approach is simple: wait for the fastball away, try to drive it over the second baseman's head. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' Spencer Torkelson digests home run after crushing a fastball," 20 Oct. 2020 Every year, thousands of fans wait in line for hours just to spend a minute or two with their favorite influencer. Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg.com, "A Convention for YouTube Stars Plans for a Post-Pandemic Future," 20 Oct. 2020 Coach Paul Chryst can't wait to see how this experienced group develops. Steve Megargee, Star Tribune, "Wisconsin's veteran defense ready for bigger responsibility," 19 Oct. 2020 Sheerie, like many of us, can’t wait for the election to be over. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "We’re well into the bargaining stage of this election. And some tough deals among families are being made.," 19 Oct. 2020 In areas of Georgia, where early in-person voting has begun, some poll places had wait times over nine hours long. Whizy Kim, refinery29.com, "Is Your Boss Giving You Time Off To Vote? How Nice Of Them," 16 Oct. 2020 During peak times of the day, cars at the curb wait an average of 5 minutes – well above the national average of 3 minutes for similarly sized airports. Susan Glaser, cleveland, "Three terminal expansion options considered for Cleveland Hopkins, part of airport master-plan process," 15 Oct. 2020 Can’t wait until Thanksgiving for some canine competition? Leah Hall, Country Living, "Your Ultimate Guide to Watching the 2020 National Dog Show," 11 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun People also have the right to call and ask how long the wait is at such places as a clinics or pharmacies inside a drug store or doctor’s office. cleveland, "Seniors learn visiting healthcare centers can be safe: Olmsted Dates and Data," 19 Oct. 2020 The wait is good for this Auburn squad, which has 10 underclassmen scholarship players, two juniors and no seniors. Giana Han, al, "After COVID-19 killed their season, Auburn Tigers make their way back to the court," 16 Oct. 2020 This year especially, with the higher volume of mail-in voting, the wait for results might be long. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "What happens to absentee ballots after you mail them?," 14 Oct. 2020 The retailer’s biggest sale of the year — normally held in July — was delayed by months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the wait was well worth it because tons of can’t-miss deals are now live. Nina Huang, EW.com, "37 Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation deals that are actually worth shopping from Amazon Prime Day," 13 Oct. 2020 Finally, after spending the last year hoping and praying for another Rihanna production to lift us out of the hole that is 2020, the wait is nearly over. Eliza Huber, refinery29.com, "Here’s A Sneak Peek Of Lizzo, Willow Smith, & More At Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Show," 1 Oct. 2020 Concerts could return within two weeks to Infinity Hall in Hartford and venues that thought they would be shuttered until mid-2021 are revisiting whether the wait is over after a surprise announcement from Gov. Ned Lamont. Michael Hamad, courant.com, "After surprise Phase 3 announcement, some theaters, concerts venues ready to open, others to stay closed," 26 Sep. 2020 For Ross and his teammates, the wait for college football is nearly over. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football players up the intensity after Big Ten's reboot," 17 Sep. 2020 And new Instagram posts and tips from eagle-eyed coffee aficionados suggests the wait is finally over. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "Starbucks' 2020 Halloween Tumbler Cups Glow In the Dark and Are Totally Blinged Out," 16 Sep. 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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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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 26 Oct. 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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Comments on wait

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