\ 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 food and drinks to the people sitting at : to act as a server 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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Don’t wait to increase your security by finding something unique and complex. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 17 May 2022 The difficulty finding and keeping employees has hampered businesses across multiplesectors, but the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard, leading to shorter operating hours and longer wait times for customers. Danielle Wiener-bronner, CNN, 15 May 2022 Don’t wait until a part breaks or is damaged beyond repair. oregonlive, 15 May 2022 There are a few weeks left to get this done, do not wait! Kelly G. Richardson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 May 2022 Don’t wait for Alaska Airlines to contact you if your flights have been changed. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, 14 May 2022 If the first test is negative, people should wait two days (behaving cautiously in the meantime) and take another one as Myers did. Lydia Denworth, Scientific American, 13 May 2022 New Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, for example, won’t wait long before the league sends him to play against his former team, the Seahawks. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, 13 May 2022 The referees usually wait for him, but in the first quarter one tossed him the ball a bit early, perhaps to speed it up. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 13 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Increase bus lines, decrease bus wait times, and increase safe bus stops. Baltimore Sun, 18 May 2022 Fans can then view the closest concession stands with wait times for food. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, 16 May 2022 Metro’s latest predicament coincides with a train shortage that has forced the agency to operate at reduced service with longer-than-normal wait times since mid-October. Justin George, Washington Post, 15 May 2022 Ride wait times are also more manageable, although the addition of the line-shortening program Genie+ will alter this further. Los Angeles Times, 14 May 2022 Historically, technology has been relegated to building infrastructure, like building automation systems for controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and destination dispatch to improve wait times for elevator systems. Morley Barr, Forbes, 13 May 2022 On average, 15% of calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline don’t go through because of extended wait times, resulting in callers dropping the call. Byadjoa Smalls-mantey, ABC News, 13 May 2022 The new center will also alleviate wait times for law enforcement officers, Crego said. al, 7 May 2022 While institutions like Connecticut Children’s work to expand hospital beds and reduce wait times for care, outpatient clinics take on an important role. Seamus Mcavoy, Hartford Courant, 6 May 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About wait

Time Traveler for wait

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

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Dictionary Entries Near wait

waist sheet



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Statistics for wait

Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on 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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