Definition of waste in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /weɪst/


1 [with object] Use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose: we can’t afford to waste electricity I don’t use the car, so why should I waste precious money on it?
More example sentences
  • In the latter case the holding of the meeting would have served no useful purpose and would merely waste the available assets of the bankrupt's estate.
  • Electricity from excess illumination wastes an enormous amount of energy needlessly.
  • Here he argued that Russians themselves did not want to make peace with Napoleon, and consequently Britain had no purpose in wasting its gold to invoke mutual hatred.
squander, fritter away, misspend, misuse, spend recklessly, throw away, lavish, be wasteful with, dissipate, spend like water, throw around like confetti;
go through, run through, exhaust, drain, deplete, burn up, use up, consume
informal blow, splurge
1.1Expend on an unappreciative recipient: her small talk was wasted on this guest
More example sentences
  • Even when manners are wasted on the recipient, it is important to present the example of civilized behavior.
  • She spares her children - an act of generosity that is wasted on them.
  • I'm not a bad loser, it's more that I think the sensation of losing is wasted on me, whereas it's quite good for their development for them to feel it.
1.2Fail to make full or good use of: we’re wasted in this job
More example sentences
  • There was no way I could stand another year in Andrews in my pathetic job which wasted my talents.
  • He really is one of those guys who is wasted at his current job.
  • He is likewise wasted as a curly-haired dad whose sole job seems to be hugging his daughter.
1.3Deliberately dispose of (surplus stock): 20% of stock will need to be wasted
2 [no object] (Of a person or a part of the body) become progressively weaker and more emaciated: she was dying of AIDS, visibly wasting away (as adjective wasting) a wasting disease
More example sentences
  • For people wasting away from the side effects of chemotherapy, this could be a small bit of very good news, indeed.
  • He very convincingly portrayed a man struggling against a disease that meant he was wasting away in order to get something of extreme importance done.
  • He saw people being murdered and people wasting away.
grow weak, wither, atrophy, become emaciated, shrivel up, shrink, decay;
decline, wilt, fade, flag, deteriorate, degenerate, rot, moulder, languish, be abandoned, be neglected, be forgotten, be disregarded
2.1 [with object] archaic Make progressively weaker and more emaciated: these symptoms wasted the patients very much
3 [with object] North American informal Kill or severely injure (someone): I saw them waste the guy I worked for
More example sentences
  • Each of you wasted a person who was infinitely more talented than you, and for what?
  • But now the military's fresh faces can get a bit of the comforts of home - by wasting their pals in an online game.
  • But nobody ever pulls out a grenade launcher and wastes the guy with the battle ax.
murder, kill, do away with, assassinate, liquidate, do to death, eliminate, terminate, dispatch, finish off, put to death, execute;
slaughter, butcher, massacre, wipe out, destroy, annihilate, eradicate, exterminate, extirpate, decimate, mow down, shoot down, cut down, cut to pieces
informal bump off, polish off, do in, knock off, top, take out, croak, stiff
North American informal ice, off, rub out, whack, smoke
literary slay
4 [with object] literary Devastate or ruin (a place): he seized their cattle and wasted their country
More example sentences
  • They proceed to unleash the monsters across the globe, who do what comes naturally, and start wasting cities.
5 [no object] literary (Of time) pass away: the years were wasting


1(Of a material, substance, or by-product) eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process: ensure that waste materials are disposed of responsibly plants produce oxygen as a waste product
More example sentences
  • They were taught how to make useful products out of waste paper, at a training programme held recently.
  • The lungs also contribute to this process by eliminating carbon dioxide which is the waste byproduct of glucose and lactic acid metabolism.
  • They can be made with simple materials such as waste paper.
unwanted, excess, superfluous, left over, scrap, extra, unused, useless, worthless;
unproductive, unusable, unprofitable
2(Of an area of land, typically an urban one) not used, cultivated, or built on: a patch of waste ground
More example sentences
  • Adding a 15m telephone mast and all its associated equipment would further make this waste area even more of an eyesore.
  • Eighteen months ago, two factories on North Road were closed down and demolished, leaving a waste area which has become a dump.
  • She knew he smoked in the waste area where the youths hung out and when he came home his clothes reeked of the weed.
uncultivated, barren, desert, unproductive, infertile, unfruitful, arid, bare;
desolate, solitary, lonely, empty, void, uninhabited, unpopulated;


1An act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose: it’s a waste of time trying to argue with him [mass noun]: they had learned to avoid waste
More example sentences
  • Elections even at a state level cost money and both parties wish to avoid an unnecessary waste of money by contesting in an election that they will lose.
  • It was an inappropriate appointment, in that it was clearly a dismal waste of his extravagant talents.
  • We went for a weekend, which on the face of it sounds like an extravagant waste of time, but was actually painlessly good fun.
squandering, dissipation, frittering away, misspending, misuse, misapplication, misemployment, abuse;
prodigality, extravagance, wastefulness, lavishness, unthriftiness
1.1 [mass noun] archaic The gradual loss or diminution of something: he was pale and weak from waste of blood
2 [mass noun] (also wastes) Unwanted or unusable material, substances, or by-products: nuclear waste hazardous industrial wastes
More example sentences
  • A nearly inert material, concrete is suitable as a medium for recycling waste or industrial by-products.
  • Many are turned into cesspools and dumping sites for solid waste, including hazardous materials.
  • Americans are right to refuse truckloads of garbage that contain biomedical waste and radioactive material.
rubbish, refuse, litter, debris, dross, junk, detritus, scrap;
dregs, leavings, remains, scraps, offscourings;
sewage, effluent, effluvium;
North American  garbage, trash
3 (usually wastes) A large area of barren, typically uninhabited land: the icy wastes of the Antarctic
More example sentences
  • From the icy wastes to the arid deserts and lush forests, it has carved out habitats and multiplied.
  • What tugs at Carlyon's heartstrings is the fate of the soldiers, the boys from the outback and the small towns who dreamed of glory but found only death and disaster in the barren wastes of Gallipoli.
  • Outside the barren wastes of the Western Sahara, few people will be holding their breath to see what the UN security council does next week about the world's most obscure and long-running conflict.
desert, wasteland, wilderness, barrenness, emptiness, vastness, wilds
4 [mass noun] Law Damage to an estate caused by an act or by neglect, especially by a life tenant.
Example sentences
  • If a mortgagee enters into possession he is liable to account for rent on the basis of wilful default; he must keep mortgage premises in repair; he is liable for waste.



go to waste

Be unused or expended to no purpose: it would be a terrible shame to see those years go to waste
More example sentences
  • With a daily outflow of 450 million litres, that's a lot of potentially very useful water going to waste.
  • Did the parents who saw their kids at the protest have any concerns about their tuition dollars going to waste?
  • Another reason I have started the practice at least on a small scale is that I hate to see so much potential going to waste.

lay waste to (or lay something (to) waste)

Completely destroy: a land laid waste by war
More example sentences
  • The Northumbrians rebelled and in devastating reprisals their lands were laid to waste for several generations.
  • Their cities would be laid waste, their lands desolate.
  • Factories sprang up like fungi while the countryside was laid waste.
devastate, wipe out, destroy, demolish, annihilate, raze, ruin, leave in ruins, wreck, level, flatten, gut, consume, ravage, pillage, sack, wreak havoc on
literary despoil
rare depredate

waste one's breath

see breath.

waste of space

informal A person regarded as useless or incompetent: you’re such a waste of space, Rodney
More example sentences
  • I reckon we should start a list, outing all incompetents for the absolute waste of space they are.
  • It's a good idea, if you can, to defend yourself against the accusation of being a waste of space by making yourself good company.
  • He is a complete waste of space and must be infuriating to play with.

waste not, want not

proverb If you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need.
Example sentences
  • I don't know how I'm going to work the Christmas theme into this shot of me as a post-autopsy coroner standing smugly over a body and holding a jar of entrails… but look, waste not, want not.
  • On the principle of waste not, want not, I've pasted some material below that was originally intended for New York Press.
  • In sports, the city's credo was waste not, want not.

waste words

see word.



Example sentences
  • ‘Even in the zones where source segregation was being done, the corporation was mixing the waste, making the whole effort pointless,’ he said, stressing the need for a common agenda on creating a wasteless society.
  • Animation, a by-necessity wasteless industry, typically tells its story as spartanly as possible due to budgetary constraints.
  • In order to demonstrate an automated wasteless molding process, a valve-gated cold runner was selected.


Middle English: from Old Northern French wast(e) (noun), waster (verb), based on Latin vastus 'unoccupied, uncultivated'.

  • This is from Old French waster, based on Latin vastus ‘unoccupied, uncultivated’. The idiomatic phrase lay waste dates from the early 16th century; waste in the sense ‘refuse’ is found from the late 17th century.

Words that rhyme with waste

barefaced, baste, boldfaced, chaste, haste, lambaste, paste, po-faced, red-faced, self-faced, shamefaced, smooth-faced, strait-laced, taste, unplaced, untraced, waist

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: waste

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.