Definition of loiter in English:



  • 1no object, with adverbial of place Stand or wait around without apparent purpose.

    ‘she saw Mary loitering near the cloakrooms’
    • ‘Her eyes strayed to a biker loitering near his glitzy ride, all chrome and shiny metallic exhaust pipes.’
    • ‘He was a generally despicable character, always loitering near his betters like a poisonous cloud, seeking only to advance his own pathetic powers.’
    • ‘Nel had also been seen loitering near her home almost daily, standing there while watching her house.’
    • ‘I looked out of the window and could see three men loitering near the shop.’
    • ‘Outside my window I could see Neil, my former team leader, loitering near the car park entrance.’
    • ‘You're standing here loitering about in a very suspicious manner.’
    • ‘Be especially aware of strangers loitering around ATMs this time of year.’
    • ‘It turns out Risaku's mere hunch became reality and an assassin stood there, loitering in the doorway.’
    • ‘Egg-laying hens loiter near their hen house and sometimes into the flowerbed.’
    • ‘My only other complaint was the over-attentive waiters, who always seemed to be loitering somewhere nearby, waiting for something to happen or checking that everything was fine.’
    • ‘Be aware of youths loitering near vehicles or at traffic lights’
    • ‘He said the police often received reports of young people loitering around street corners, but the fact is ‘they have a right to be there’.’
    • ‘I hold that one can loiter without being stationary.’
    • ‘During this hostile exchange, Nageku loitered near the buffet table and helped himself to some wine.’
    • ‘We found that parental males keep track of how many sneaker males they see loitering near their nests during spawning time.’
    • ‘Even though I was used to this kind of thing, being that I was perpetually hanging around with Celia, I loitered near the door while she browsed.’
    • ‘This was a place for lost souls to loiter, waiting for a judgment never to come.’
    • ‘I engaged in mundane chit-chat and constantly asked dumb questions to just about anyone who happened to be loitering in the vicinity.’
    • ‘The thin man who had been loitering near the doorway slipped up to Umberto.’
    • ‘A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said the man, who lives in Little Horton, challenged the group of five or six youths he discovered loitering near his car.’
    linger, potter, wait, skulk
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    1. 1.1with adverbial of direction Walk slowly and with no apparent purpose; dawdle.
      ‘the weather had tempted them to loiter along the banks of the Cherwell’
      • ‘Alabaster couples loitered along the garden path, handsome, whole and serene.’
      dawdle, dally, stroll, saunter, loll, go slowly, take one's time, go at a snail's pace, move at a snail's pace, drag one's feet, delay
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  • loiter with intent

    • dated Stand or wait around with the intention of committing an offence.


Late Middle English: perhaps from Middle Dutch loteren ‘wag about’.