Definition of wait in English:

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Pronunciation: /wāt/


[no object]
1Stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens: he did not wait for a reply we’re waiting for Allan to get back they will wait on a Supreme Court ruling [with infinitive]: Ben stood on the street corner waiting to cross [with object]: I had to wait my turn to play
More example sentences
  • To get the longest term go for a card deal that waits until the money hits your new account.
  • They sat in the large leather armchairs to wait the arrival of the man on whom so much depended.
  • I peeked through the window behind my back and saw a young woman waiting in the car.
hold on, hold back, bide one's time, hang fire, mark time, stand by, sit tight, hold one's horses
anticipate, look forward, long, pine, yearn, expect, be ready
1.1 (wait for or on) Stay where one is or delay action until (someone) arrives or is ready: he sits on the corner waiting for Mary she was waiting on her boyfriend
1.2Remain in readiness for some purpose: he found the train waiting at the platform
More example sentences
  • At the road end our bus was waiting to take us back to Te Anau and the end of a memorable experience.
  • It isn't too far from here, and he'll probably have some food waiting when we get there.
  • There was a taxi waiting where the aircraft came to a halt so that they could avoid the muddy dirt of the airfield.
stay (put), remain, rest, stop, halt, pause;
linger, loiter, dally
informal stick around, hang out, hang around, kill time, waste time, kick one's heels, twiddle one's thumbs
archaic tarry
1.3Be left until a later time before being dealt with: we shall need a statement later, but that will have to wait
More example sentences
  • Signing Dillon to a long-term deal is a priority, but it will wait until the off season.
  • Postpone those decisions that can wait until you feel more able to deal with them.
  • Subtitled ‘another side of Cirque du Soleil,’ this one'll have to wait till the kids are in bed.
be postponed, be delayed, be put off, be deferred
informal be put on the back burner, be put on ice
1.4 [with object] informal Defer (a meal) until a person’s arrival: he will wait supper for me
More example sentences
  • He'd kept everything warm in the oven for her and Ashton agreed to wait dinner on her as he wasn't hungry.
2 (cannot wait) Used to indicate that one is eagerly impatient to do something or for something to happen: I can’t wait for tomorrow [with infinitive]: I can’t wait to get started again
More example sentences
  • My head was full of ideas for my new design all day and I couldn't wait to get home and try them out.
  • It was my first present from him and I felt so gorgeous in it that I couldn't wait to show it off.
  • Some people here couldn't wait to get rid of him, but look at what he has achieved.
3Act as a waiter or waitress, serving food and drink: a local man was employed to wait on them at table [with object]: we had to wait tables in the mess hall
More example sentences
  • Seneca ridiculed a wealthy man because he kept a handsome slave who was dressed like a woman when he waited at table.
  • He was one of the footmen who waited at table.
  • If the truth be known, waiting tables was my only income.


1 [in singular] A period of waiting: we had a long wait
More example sentences
  • Show up early, because no matter what time you go, there will be an interminable wait.
  • Unfortunately, a train has just left the station, and it will be quite a wait for the next one.
  • Desperate motorists say they face an hour wait when trying to leave the car park at the end of the day.
delay, holdup, interval, interlude, intermission, pause, break, stay, cessation, suspension, stoppage, halt, interruption, lull, respite, recess, moratorium, hiatus, gap, rest
2 (waits) British archaic Street singers of Christmas carols.
Example sentences
  • Originally they were mummers, performing traditional plays, and they then became known as waits, who would tour the town every evening before Christmas.
2.1 historical Official bands of musicians maintained by a city or town.
Example sentences
  • He wrote music for the London theatres in the early part of the 17th century, and in 1622 joined the waits of the City of London.



wait and see

Wait to find out what will happen before doing or deciding something.
Example sentences
  • Well, we have to wait and see in this case if the defense is going to put in for bail.
  • As to whether we have a capacity to go any further in future Budgets, you'll have to wait and see.
  • However, Sligo must wait and see what the new team for the constituency will deliver.

you wait

Used to convey a threat, warning, or promise: just you wait till your father comes home!
More example sentences
  • Oh that reminds me I also have to brush up on my French, because I'm gonna be fluent by the end of summer, just you wait.

Phrasal verbs


wait on (or upon)

1Act as an attendant to (someone): a maid was appointed to wait on her
More example sentences
  • Where once convicts were forced to hop around the exercise yard in the blazing sun, they now sunbathe in deckchairs, waited on by the guards.
  • I had to help with the preparations, taking time out from the demanding task of waiting on His Grace to assist with everything from cooking to candle making.
  • Palmerin is taken to Constantinople and appointed to wait on his cousin Polinarda, with whom he falls in love; while Floriano is taken to London and appointed to wait on Flerida.
serve, attend to, tend (to), cater for/to;
minister to, take care of, look after, see to
1.1Serve (a customer) in a store.
1.2 archaic Pay a respectful visit to.
Example sentences
  • The latter is very unpopular, & a deputation of ministers waited upon C, asking that he should be removed as he was not playing the game.
  • It states that any deputation waiting on a Minister or member after a demonstration is limited to six.
2chiefly British Await the convenience of: we can’t wait on the government; we have to do it ourselves
More example sentences
  • Cancer patients recovering in hospital will no longer have to wait on the postman for their get well soon cards.
  • The rest of the group sat and waited on her patiently.
  • The problem is that we're waiting on the justice system.

wait up

1Not go to bed until someone arrives or something happens.
Example sentences
  • Manager Don Givens waited up until 4am for the player to return to HQ, at which point he gave up and went to bed.
  • Thousands of Swindon youngsters will be eagerly waiting up for Santa to drop down the chimney tonight.
  • If you're waiting up all night for a husband who comes home after the kids are in bed, you might feel you're missing out.
stay awake, stay up, keep vigil
2North American Go more slowly or stop until someone catches up.
Example sentences
  • I sassed when he caught up with me as I didn't wait up for him like he asked me too.
  • We rode towards Baker Lake, but before reaching the lake stopped to wait up for Michael and Cathy.
  • Katrina stared open-mouthed and then after a moment of hesitation, she followed Ashley, shouting for her to wait up.
stop, slow down, hold on, wait for me


Middle English: from Old Northern French waitier, of Germanic origin; related to wake1. Early senses included 'lie in wait (for)', 'observe carefully', and 'be watchful'.

Words that rhyme with wait

abate, ablate, aerate, ait, await, backdate, bait, bate, berate, castrate, collate, conflate, crate, create, cremate, date, deflate, dictate, dilate, distraite, donate, downstate, eight, elate, equate, estate, fate, fête, fixate, freight, frustrate, gait, gate, gestate, gradate, grate, great, gyrate, hate, hydrate, inflate, innate, interrelate, interstate, irate, Kate, Kuwait, lactate, late, locate, lustrate, mandate, mate, migrate, misdate, misstate, mistranslate, mutate, narrate, negate, notate, orate, ornate, Pate, placate, plate, prate, prorate, prostrate, pulsate, pupate, quadrate, rate, rotate, sate, sedate, serrate, short weight, skate, slate, spate, spectate, spruit, stagnate, state, straight, strait, Tate, tête-à-tête, Thwaite, translate, translocate, transmigrate, truncate, underrate, understate, underweight, update, uprate, upstate, up-to-date, vacate, vibrate, weight

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: wait

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