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

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

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

Example Sentences

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 Minneapolis and Los Angeles are included, so don’t hesitate to put someone like George Mikan on your list. Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2022 Some of the items like the Acer Predator Helios 300 are already low in stock, so don't hesitate. Carly Kulzer, EW.com, 16 Nov. 2022 Why do consumers hesitate to purchase certain sustainable products and services? Aparna Bharadwaj, Fortune, 25 Oct. 2022 There's no telling how long these early shoe deals will last, so don't hesitate to fill your cart before the actual Prime Early Access Sale event is here. Carly Kulzer, Peoplemag, 8 Oct. 2022 In one memorable scene, the men on the mission (played by stars including Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck and David Niven) hesitate to kill a woman discovered to be a turncoat. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2022 Defense was his primary focus, but Koulianos didn’t hesitate to utilize him in sets that called for tight ends. Michael Osipoff, Chicago Tribune, 6 Oct. 2022 The recent premiers of tentpole epics like The Rings of Power mask the fact that the days when studios would not hesitate to splurge in the quest for subscriber growth and lower rates of churn, appear over. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 2 Sep. 2022 The Coyotes knew a player of his caliber wouldn't be around much longer in the first round and didn't hesitate to make a trade. Jenna Ortiz, The Arizona Republic, 19 July 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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hesitate was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near hesitate

Cite this Entry

“Hesitate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitate. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



hes·​i·​tate ˈhez-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce hesitate (audio)
hesitated; hesitating
: to stop or pause because of uncertainty or indecision
hesitate before answering
: to be unwilling
hesitate to ask a favor
hesitater noun
hesitatingly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on hesitate

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