way·​lay ˈwā-ˌlā How to pronounce waylay (audio)
waylaid ˈwā-ˌlād How to pronounce waylay (audio) ; waylaying; waylays

transitive verb

: to lie in wait for or attack (someone) from ambush
… he had been waylaid, bound hand and foot, and thrown into a marsh. But he got out again, somehow, to cause a great deal of trouble yet.Charles Dickens
: to temporarily stop the movement or progress of (someone or something)
The barkeeper, Tony, would come out of his saloon and wait to waylay the men going home. He could always entice a man with a full pocket into his saloon.Meridel Le Sueur
I can get waylaid by tangential thoughts and associations in mid-sentence, and this leads to parentheses, subordinate clauses, sentences of paragraphic length. I never use one adjective if six seem to me better and, in their cumulative effect, more incisive.Oliver Sacks

Example Sentences

Gangs sometimes waylay travelers on that road. We were waylaid by a group of kids with water balloons.
Recent Examples on the Web Its engagement was waylaid by the national lockdown that shuttered all arts venues nationwide overnight. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Mar. 2023 Creative duo Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott were on hand at the Paramount Theater two years after the premiere of their breakout feature Shiva Baby was set to premiere at the festival but was waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Mar. 2023 In another attack also last month, gunmen disguised as police officers waylaid a van carrying Rommel Alameda, the vice mayor of Aparri, a town in the north, killing him and five companions. Jason Gutierrez, New York Times, 4 Mar. 2023 Aquarius January 20-February 18 The best intentions can get easily waylaid today. Chicago Tribune, 1 Mar. 2023 The pandemic did waylay the process. Mark Shanahan, BostonGlobe.com, 27 May 2022 Wolves were the creatures, lurking in the shadows outside town, who might waylay or harm us. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, 25 Mar. 2023 Long-term bonds stick around furhter into the future, when bad stuff can waylay them. Larry Light, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2022 If, and when, drones fill the sky, there will inevitably be those who attempt to waylay or damage them. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 29 Dec. 2016 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'waylay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of waylay was in 1513

Dictionary Entries Near waylay

Cite this Entry

“Waylay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waylay. Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


way·​lay ˈwā-ˌlā How to pronounce waylay (audio)
waylaid -ˌlād How to pronounce waylay (audio) ; waylaying
: to attack from a hiding place

More from Merriam-Webster on waylay

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!