\ 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb White had to wait until his senior year in 1993 to play a game as Auburn’s quarterback at Jordan-Hare against the Tide. Nubyjas Wilborn | Nwilborn@al.com, al, 24 Nov. 2021 Denver may have to wait until the second or third week of December for any measurable snow in the city. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, 24 Nov. 2021 Biden is widely expected to wait until after the midterms to make a formal announcement. Michael Scherer, Tyler Pager And Sean Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Nov. 2021 What a win means SDSU can move closer to a West Division title with a win, but potentially clinching the division will have to wait until the final weekend of the regular season. San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Nov. 2021 Larger wooden toys will have to wait until next year. Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2021 Instead, the new agreement will be go into effect, and the membership will have to wait until the next round of bargaining in 2024. NBC News, 15 Nov. 2021 Instead, the new agreement will be go into effect, and the membership will have to wait until the next round of bargaining in 2024. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 15 Nov. 2021 There's no need to wait until after your delicious turkey feast to start holiday shopping online. Alex Warner, PEOPLE.com, 10 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After laughing, the couple eventually was able to agree that this proposal was worth the wait. Jennifer Zhan, Vulture, 15 Nov. 2021 The large, light-filled, master-bath addition was worth the wait. Sarah Egge, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 Nov. 2021 Patience is a virtue, and new music from an icon is worth the wait. Janae Mckenzie, Glamour, 5 Nov. 2021 Paid only when the wheels are turning, the asset-intensive carrier base struggled with wait times and warehouse inefficiencies. Lora Cecere, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 County officials also expanded a list of eligible medical providers to provide pre-employment physicals in an effort to reduce a backlog that caused long wait times for applicants seeking a physical, the release states. Lillian Reed, baltimoresun.com, 9 Nov. 2021 Those driver shortages have led to surging costs per ride and increased wait times, the companies said. Jonathan Simmons, ABC News, 8 Nov. 2021 Travelers who crossed into the country at land borders, which also reopened to vaccinated travelers on Monday, were met with long wait times at certain crossings. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 8 Nov. 2021 Many of the civil society groups that did make the journey were met with long wait times and limited access. Justin Worland/glasgow, Time, 5 Nov. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for wait

Time Traveler

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

28 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Wait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for wait



English Language Learners Definition of wait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to stay in a place until an expected event happens, until someone arrives, until it is your turn to do something, etc.
: to not do something until something else happens
: to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon



English Language Learners Definition of wait (Entry 2 of 2)

: a period of time when you must 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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