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

Definition of waylay

transitive verb

1 : 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
2 : 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

Synonyms for waylay


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Examples of waylay in a Sentence

Gangs sometimes waylay travelers on that road. We were waylaid by a group of kids with water balloons.
Recent Examples on the Web For months, scientists have been monitoring the lift and drop in protection from asymptomatic infection and milder forms of COVID-19, dynamics that seem tightly tethered to antibodies, the molecules that can waylay viruses outside of cells. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 29 Dec. 2021 If a global health crisis couldn’t waylay them, a few temperamental artists don’t stand a chance. Sarah Medford, WSJ, 8 Dec. 2021 Last month, Evans gave a TEDx talk in Temecula that included evidence that poker playing shows potential to slow the aging of the brain and is a tool to waylay dementia’s onset. Diane Bell Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Oct. 2021 Although Almeyda, disguised as an old woman, does set out to find Anninho, the book is more interested in the different people who waylay her, and who all have different views on freedom and how to pursue it. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 The party once freely condemned the would-be insurrectionists who attempted to waylay democracy. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2021 This works best against a pathogen such as a bacterium, which neutrophils can waylay outside of cells; within minutes of an invasion, the horde will begin gobbling up its opponents and tossing noxious, microbe-killing grenades into the fray. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 17 June 2021 The what, when, and where of these immunological assaults are all crucial to the body’s ability to waylay disease; any perturbation threatens to set the whole system askew. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2021 At worst, there are the roost jump shooters who waylay 100 geese (or more) on water in matter of seconds, even when ducks, Canadas, and specklebelly geese might be mixed in as collateral damage (breaking federal game laws). Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, 18 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'waylay.' 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 waylay

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Waylay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waylay. Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for waylay



English Language Learners Definition of waylay

: to stop (someone who is going somewhere)
: to attack (someone or something) by surprise from a hidden place


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

Kids Definition of waylay

: to attack from hiding

More from Merriam-Webster on waylay

Nglish: Translation of waylay for Spanish Speakers


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