hes·​i·​tate | \ ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio) \
hesitated; hesitating

Definition of hesitate

intransitive verb

1 : to hold back in doubt or indecision She didn't hesitate when they offered her the job.
2 : to delay momentarily : pause He hesitated and waited for her to say something.
3 : stammer

transitive verb

: to hold back from (doing or saying something) in doubt or uncertainty Don't hesitate to call if you need something.

Other Words from hesitate

hesitater noun
hesitatingly \ ˈhe-​zə-​ˌtā-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce hesitate (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for hesitate

hesitate, waver, vacillate, falter mean to show irresolution or uncertainty. hesitate implies a pause before deciding or acting or choosing. hesitated before answering the question waver implies hesitation after seeming to decide and so connotes weakness or a retreat. wavered in his support of the rebels vacillate implies prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision. vacillated until events were out of control falter implies a wavering or stumbling and often connotes nervousness, lack of courage, or outright fear. never once faltered during her testimony

Examples of hesitate in a Sentence

She hesitated and waited for her friend to say something. He hesitated about accepting the job. I sometimes hesitate to say what I am really thinking. I hesitated to come without being asked. I wouldn't hesitate to ask for your help if I felt I needed it. Don't hesitate to call if there is a problem. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Poly boys lacrosse coach Phil Thompson doesn’t hesitate in calling the Engineers’ defense the heart of the team. Glenn Graham, Baltimore Sun, 9 May 2022 Don't hesitate to give the Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow a try. Emily Belfiore, Travel + Leisure, 8 May 2022 Risa is the princess who runs the show and at 3 pounds, doesn’t hesitate to boss around her 12-pound brother. Jenelle Riley, Variety, 6 May 2022 Interestingly, Crowe did not hesitate when asked about a favorite nonnative perennial of all time. Jennifer Rude Klett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5 May 2022 Baldelli doesn’t hesitate to consider Buxton one of the top five baserunners and defenders in the world. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 5 May 2022 After drilling a 2-0 pitch from Rockies starter Aaron Cook to center with two outs and a runner on second, Biggio didn’t hesitate to turn at first and chug to second. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 24 Apr. 2022 Fin Tutuola did not hesitate to put the debate to rest. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 22 Apr. 2022 Don't hesitate to grab an item that will help her tend to her garden and keep all the houseplants happy. Brittney Morgan And Medgina Saint-elien, House Beautiful, 20 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hesitate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of hesitate

1598, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for hesitate

Latin haesitatus, past participle of haesitare to stick fast, hesitate, frequentative of haerēre to stick

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Time Traveler for hesitate

Time Traveler

The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for hesitate


hes·​i·​tate | \ ˈhe-zə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio) \
hesitated; hesitating

Kids Definition of hesitate

1 : to pause before doing something He hesitated before crossing the stream.
2 : to be unwilling to do something because of doubt or nervousness Don't hesitate to ask for help.

Other Words from hesitate

hesitation \ ˌhez-​ə-​ˈtā-​shən \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on hesitate

Nglish: Translation of hesitate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hesitate for Arabic Speakers


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