Definition of waste in US English:



  • 1with 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?’
    • ‘The conclusion is that £434,950 a year is being wasted on heating and electricity: money that could be saved if the buildings were more energy efficient.’
    • ‘The kids had left her in the darkness, knowing the overseers would have punished them for wasting electricity.’
    • ‘And I wonder whether I wasted what is the best time to make friends.’
    • ‘By that action, we also don't waste so many natural resources.’
    • ‘Electricity from excess illumination wastes an enormous amount of energy needlessly.’
    • ‘Then again, both of the fellows in question drove expensive imported cars, so they probably can't afford to waste a cent extra if they want to keep up with their repayments.’
    • ‘Mom said they couldn't afford to waste anything right now.’
    • ‘Nobody wants to see valuable funds wasted on pet projects.’
    • ‘Don't try to scream, for you will just waste your energy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Why waste all this money on allowances, mayoral houses, mayoral vehicles, meetings, workshops, etc?’
    • ‘In actuality, we are wasting too much energy at home, on streets and elsewhere.’
    • ‘Money is going to be wasted on this project even before it begins.’
    • ‘With so little of my book written and so little time to finish it, I can not really afford to waste time.’
    • ‘Why waste all that money on TV ads?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One-third to one-half of all the energy consumed by small business is wasted through inefficiency.’
    • ‘Frankly I can't afford to go wasting fifteen quid on something as needless as this.’
    • ‘A leaking tap, for instance, can waste up to 90 litres per day.’
    • ‘She wasn't about to waste anymore of her precious resting time.’
    squander, fritter away, misspend, misuse, spend recklessly, throw away, lavish, be wasteful with, dissipate, spend like water, throw around like confetti
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    1. 1.1usually be wasted on Bestow or expend on an unappreciative recipient.
      ‘her small talk was wasted on this guest’
      • ‘By now I realised that singing lessons were wasted on the likes of me.’
      • ‘These are the sort of cellphones that are wasted on techno illiterates like me.’
      • ‘They say youth is wasted on the young and experience on the retired.’
      • ‘It is believed that education is wasted on girls, who will marry and take their wage-earning abilities to another household.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Maybe so, but I have long said that wealth is wasted on the old.’
      • ‘But like all other science and math teachers, his efforts were wasted on me.’
      • ‘I guess that college, like youth, is wasted on the young.’
      • ‘The irony was wasted on the Americans as they swarmed down the crumbling alleys.’
      • ‘Some books are wasted on children.’
      • ‘I've said it before (well, sort of), and I'll say it again, school is wasted on kids.’
      • ‘It was widely assumed that the expense of higher education was wasted on girls.’
      • ‘She spares her children - an act of generosity that is wasted on them.’
      • ‘Holidays are wasted on those not in full-time employment!’
      • ‘It is in this hollowness that your words are wasted on an inattentive me.’
      • ‘Yet this creed is wasted on Shanghai youth whose nostalgia keeps them glued to the city.’
      • ‘If, as the adage goes, education is wasted on the young, it is tempting to wonder whether democracy is not wasted on voters.’
      • ‘Even when manners are wasted on the recipient, it is important to present the example of civilized behavior.’
      • ‘The sardonic humour was wasted on him, and he begged me to give him the inside track on what drugs to take to win gold without the eternal shame of a life ban.’
      • ‘At the age of 57 he is still out there rocking harder than those a third of his age - a shining example that youth is wasted on the young.’
    2. 1.2usually be wasted Fail to make full or good use of.
      ‘we're wasted in this job’
      • ‘He is likewise wasted as a curly-haired dad whose sole job seems to be hugging his daughter.’
      • ‘The only likable character was Pacey, and he was wasted during the season.’
      • ‘The film's approach to its cast is a textbook example of how to waste actors.’
      • ‘She is mostly wasted here, with little to do but putter around and slowly decline.’
      • ‘The best actors are wasted on one-note parental roles.’
      • ‘Nancy Travis shows up for a few scenes as John's live-in girlfriend, but her character is sorely wasted.’
      • ‘Too bad those nice eyes are wasted on this jerk of a man.’
      • ‘An interesting thesis is wasted on a far too superficial script with some decent make-up effects.’
      • ‘The supporting actors' talents are wasted in standard-issue roles.’
      • ‘I think she is wasting what once was a great talent.’
      • ‘There was no way I could stand another year in Andrews in my pathetic job which wasted my talents.’
      • ‘It's a shame that his acting abilities are wasted on such inconsequential drivel like this.’
      • ‘Well, film lovers too feel that such talent should not be wasted in insignificant roles!’
      • ‘He really is one of those guys who is wasted at his current job.’
      • ‘Russell is wasted in what is essentially a standard supportive wife role.’
      • ‘Elsewhere the vocal strength is wasted on dull content and music which has had much of the soul digitally removed from it.’
      • ‘England's captain had given the ball away all afternoon, but he does not waste too many crossing opportunities.’
      • ‘It just seemed to me that the tropical island setting was totally wasted.’
      • ‘Goodman makes sure none of his employees are wasted.’
  • 2no object (of a person or a part of the body) become progressively weaker and more emaciated.

    ‘she was visibly wasting away’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I have to be reassured by my wife that I am not wasting away, a bit like ‘does my bum look big in this?’’
    • ‘I am not wasting away, I am seldom ill and always recover quickly.’
    • ‘While her brain remained sharp, her body wasted away.’
    • ‘He saw people being murdered and people wasting away.’
    • ‘Patients with wasting diseases were revitalised by drugs which stimulated the synthesis of protein, the key ingredient of muscle, bone and skin.’
    • ‘She was wasting away, but still had a sort of decaying beauty.’
    • ‘Spinal muscular atrophy makes muscles waste away and is incurable.’
    • ‘Somethings certainly have improved, many people are looking healthier, but they have discovered a new area where people are wasting away.’
    • ‘We will have to feed you up Juliet you are quite wasting away’
    • ‘When I was younger, my grandfather slowly wasted away, through nothing more than old age, but long before he died, he had lost all his mental faculties, and also any control over his body.’
    • ‘I still fancy him to bits, but I get a fright every time I set eyes on him: He's literally wasted away in front of my eyes these past few weeks.’
    • ‘Surely, it's time. He is wasting away and at 83 is so tired.’
    • ‘So far, the clinical trials have focused on patients with arthritis, wasting syndrome and high cholesterol.’
    • ‘Motor neurone disease affects the nerves to all the muscles in the body and victims gradually waste away.’
    • ‘For people wasting away from the side effects of chemotherapy, this could be a small bit of very good news, indeed.’
    • ‘He's wasting away, and there's nothing the healers can do.’
    • ‘It was heartbreaking to watch he and his brother literally wasting away, without hope of recovery.’
    • ‘Look at you, you're wasting away and you're too scared to go run back home.’
    • ‘I could not sit up because my muscles had wasted away.’
    grow weak, wither, atrophy, become emaciated, shrivel up, shrink, decay
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    1. 2.1archaic with object Make progressively weaker and more emaciated.
      ‘these symptoms wasted the patients very much’
  • 3literary with object Devastate or ruin (a place)

    ‘he seized their cattle and wasted their country’
    • ‘They proceed to unleash the monsters across the globe, who do what comes naturally, and start wasting cities.’
    destroy, devastate, lay waste, leave in ruins, wreak havoc on, ravage, leave desolate
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    1. 3.1North American informal Kill or severely injure (someone)
      ‘I saw them waste the guy I worked for’
      • ‘But nobody ever pulls out a grenade launcher and wastes the guy with the battle ax.’
      • ‘Each of you wasted a person who was infinitely more talented than you, and for what?’
      • ‘I'd like to fight somebody with a black belt and waste them.’
      • ‘Sure enough, three of them leap at him, sensing the boy as the most powerful, planning to waste him.’
      • ‘I didn't want him dead, he was too good at what he did for me to waste him like that.’
      • ‘But now the military's fresh faces can get a bit of the comforts of home - by wasting their pals in an online game.’
      • ‘If you're an extreme utilitarian, you might just accept the calculation at face value and waste the little guy.’
      murder, kill, do away with, assassinate, liquidate, do to death, eliminate, terminate, dispatch, finish off, put to death, execute
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  • 4literary no object (of time) pass away; be spent.

    ‘the years were wasting’


  • 1(of a material, substance, or byproduct) 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’
    • ‘The conference, to be held in Tidworth in November, will show how thinking about rubbish as a raw material rather than a waste product can benefit businesses.’
    • ‘They can be made with simple materials such as waste paper.’
    • ‘This contract also excludes liability in respect of disposal or dumping of any waste materials or substances.’
    • ‘Paul sends me this story about a process to convert any waste matter into oil, gas and water.’
    • ‘It is proposed that the waste timber product would be obtained from local forestry residues including thinnings.’
    • ‘Local miners have been digging and collecting here for several years, moving many tons of overburden soil and waste rock in the process.’
    • ‘The reporter asked to see how he processed his own waste water and he agreed.’
    • ‘They were taught how to make useful products out of waste paper, at a training programme held recently.’
    • ‘Then they will ship the bulk samples to Iqaluit for crushing and sorting, to separate the sapphire material from waste rock.’
    • ‘Constructed wetlands have advantages over other means of treating waste water because they require little energy, chemical input or maintenance.’
    • ‘Aquatic plant material and waste grain left in plowed fields make up the majority of the Canada Goose's diet.’
    • ‘He introduced us to a product that recycles waste plastic into fuel that was invented in Japan.’
    • ‘Roof felts are essentially scrap paper bonded together with bitumen, a waste oil product that is put on the felt to saturate it.’
    • ‘All our diseases are explained on the basis of deposition and fermentation of waste substances.’
    • ‘He is also using the same process to turn waste wood from demolished buildings into biofibres that can then be used to make high-performance materials.’
    • ‘The incineration process produces a residual waste ash, which has to be transported and disposed of by landfilling.’
    • ‘The lungs also contribute to this process by eliminating carbon dioxide which is the waste byproduct of glucose and lactic acid metabolism.’
    • ‘One such body function is the occasional need to eliminate accumulated waste gases from the digestive tract.’
    • ‘The reef mines sank far underground, and used expensive machinery and complex metallurgical processes to separate the gold from the waste rock.’
    • ‘Each stage in the production process uses the waste material of the previous one as its feedstock.’
    unwanted, excess, superfluous, left over, scrap, extra, unused, useless, worthless
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  • 2(of an area of land, typically in a city or town) not used, cultivated, or built on.

    ‘a patch of waste ground’
    • ‘The idea is to focus attention on problem areas which might otherwise be disregarded - such as waste ground - and to set a bench-mark for authorities to improve on.’
    • ‘Adding a 15m telephone mast and all its associated equipment would further make this waste area even more of an eyesore.’
    • ‘I am referring to Manchester Road Park which is an absolute disgrace and resembles a waste ground rather than a recreation area.’
    • ‘A major new leisure complex could be on the way for Burnley if plans to develop waste ground get the go-ahead.’
    • ‘Eighteen months ago, two factories on North Road were closed down and demolished, leaving a waste area which has become a dump.’
    • ‘Empty lager cans, plastic cider bottles and broken glass have turned the popular dog-walking area into waste ground.’
    • ‘She knew he smoked in the waste area where the youths hung out and when he came home his clothes reeked of the weed.’
    • ‘However to the West of the estate lies an expanse of waste ground and swampland which very nearly cost the life of a young boy from the estate.’
    • ‘It grows in pastures, cultivated fields, and waste places.’
    • ‘He is surrounded by the detritus of his addiction in a waste area in the middle of a rubbish dump.’
    • ‘Both crops also prevent erosion and provide revenue to offset the costs of managing waste sites.’
    • ‘Thanks to the effort of local people, that derelict piece of waste ground has now been transformed into a thriving urban nature park.’
    • ‘The facilities will be installed on an area of waste ground between the primary school and Westfield Road, and it is hoped that it will be open in time for the summer holidays.’
    • ‘Plans to transform waste ground in Westhoughton into a residential area have been given a cautious welcome.’
    uncultivated, barren, desert, unproductive, infertile, unfruitful, arid, bare
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  • 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’
    ‘they had learned to avoid waste’
    • ‘What exactly he intended with this disgusting waste of celluloid is a complete mystery.’
    • ‘I have a whole rant about my sister's presence and the waste of money it was to bring her here to do nothing but sit around and watch television, but that's been said and done already.’
    • ‘You might think the opposition would savage such a profligate waste of taxpayers' money.’
    • ‘When they barely had power for lighting it seemed an extravagant waste.’
    • ‘It might be a waste of water, but in an extreme case it is a better alternative than a frozen, busted pipe on a freezing winter night.’
    • ‘The waste of energy can hit the environment hard.’
    • ‘So, in fact, that process has been a complete waste of time.’
    • ‘Not surprisingly, the opinion of the people sitting around me was that the blimp was an absurd waste of taxpayer money.’
    • ‘But parents see this as a waste of taxpayers' money.’
    • ‘These little actions are a waste of time, money and efforts.’
    • ‘Most replies wanted the cheapest option and thought the council a waste of money.’
    • ‘We went for a weekend, which on the face of it sounds like an extravagant waste of time, but was actually painlessly good fun.’
    • ‘In fact he reckons it's a giant waste of taxpayer's money.’
    • ‘Others have called the project a waste of taxpayers' money.’
    • ‘It's a waste of time, a waste of your money, a waste of your life.’
    • ‘And I don't know if I'm more afraid that it will be the hugest, grossest waste of my time ever, or that I will actually enjoy it.’
    • ‘Is funding a project like this a good idea or a waste of money?’
    • ‘It was an inappropriate appointment, in that it was clearly a dismal waste of his extravagant talents.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The waste of talent in our country and in our world today is an affront.’
    squandering, dissipation, frittering away, misspending, misuse, misapplication, misemployment, abuse
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    1. 1.1archaic The gradual loss or diminution of something.
      ‘he was pale and weak from waste of blood’
      deprivation, disappearance, losing, privation, forfeiture, squandering, dissipation
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  • 2Material that is not wanted; the unusable remains or byproducts of something.

    ‘bodily waste’
    ‘hazardous industrial wastes’
    • ‘The committee asks those responsible to refrain from dumping household waste in this bin.’
    • ‘Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Hazardous wastes should not be put out with normal household waste for landfill.’
    • ‘We can't carry on as we are, throwing away huge quantities of recyclable waste every year.’
    • ‘By 2010, Massachusetts wants to reduce municipal solid waste by 70 percent statewide.’
    • ‘Composting turns household wastes into valuable fertilizer and soil organic matter.’
    • ‘Companies didn't stop dumping toxic wastes into rivers because the government asked them nicely.’
    • ‘The Department of Defense produces more hazardous waste per year than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.’
    • ‘Again I noticed another reduction in the amount of waste in my bin.’
    • ‘Americans are right to refuse truckloads of garbage that contain biomedical waste and radioactive material.’
    • ‘Concern arises because landfill sites are the primary means of disposing millions of tonnes of hazardous industrial waste.’
    • ‘Failing to cover body wastes in open latrines promoted the spread of disease by flies.’
    • ‘We see everyday how people still dump their waste carelessly.’
    • ‘I already compost my garden and kitchen waste in my two compost bins.’
    • ‘The two warehouses will be used to store low-level radioactive waste generated by the two plants.’
    • ‘York council chiefs announced plans to dump regular weekly rubbish collections in an attempt to recycle more garden waste.’
    • ‘The council has tried to address the problem of illegally dumped rubbish by organising free collections of household waste including unwanted fridges.’
    • ‘If done properly, the garden waste you use now will be completely broken down into lovely rich soil at winter's end.’
    rubbish, refuse, litter, debris, dross, junk, detritus, scrap
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  • 3usually wastesA large area of barren, typically uninhabited land.

    ‘the icy wastes of the Antarctic’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her mouth and throat were as dry as the desert wastes.’
    • ‘Remote and romantic they might seem from afar, but the desert wastes of the Western Sahara are echoing to the sounds of preparation for war.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There were French partridges, a hare crossed the icy wastes leaving stretched-out tracks and we discussed the advantage of stiffer soled boots for snow and the necessity of shades.’
    • ‘He comes up with such treasures as, ‘Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place - like two people in a bed,’ in reference to his failed relationship and the icy wastes around him.’
    • ‘They are famed for their ability to operate at sea, in the jungle or in the Arctic wastes and freezing cold of Norway.’
    • ‘Numerous artists are leaving the city garret behind and getting out into the great outdoors as the icy white wastes lure their imagination.’
    • ‘That will see him traversing the Americas, covering the 25,000 kilometres from Ushuia, the world's most southern city, up to the icy wastes of Alaska.’
    • ‘Armoured warfare on the plains of west and central Europe is very different from internal security operations in an urban area or patrolling across desert wastes in the sub-Sahara.’
    • ‘A rare silver arctic fox, a tough breed used to treading the icy wastes of Alaska and Canada, has been given a new home and a warm welcome at Selby Animal Sanctuary.’
    • ‘I crave snow-topped mountains, dreary wastes, and the cruel Northern sea with its hard horizons at the edge of the world where infinite space begins.’
    • ‘I do not know what happened to him after they cast him into the southern wastes by the sea.’
    • ‘There are a variety of locations in the game - from towns to jungles to snowy wastes to an aircraft carrier - and they all look absolutely authentic.’
    • ‘As well as mass genocide, Stalin tore thousands of families apart by exiling men to the icy wastes of Siberia.’
    • ‘It might add interest to what has become a long chase across desert wastes.’
    • ‘The images are crystal clear because it is now spring in the frozen wastes of the Martian poles.’
    • ‘His hair was long, lank and bright red, and his skin as pale as the icy wastes beyond.’
    • ‘European navigators and adventurers were tantalized for centuries by reports of a sea passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in icy wastes north of Canada.’
    • ‘From the icy wastes to the arid deserts and lush forests, it has carved out habitats and multiplied.’
    desert, wasteland, wilderness, barrenness, emptiness, vastness, wilds
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  • 4Law
    Damage to an estate caused by an act or by neglect, especially by a life-tenant.

    • ‘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.

      • ‘The coffee harvest has been going to waste, everyday life has been disrupted.’
      • ‘Most students do not know about this book dumping, and great books are going to waste.’
      • ‘Did the parents who saw their kids at the protest have any concerns about their tuition dollars going to waste?’
      • ‘With a daily outflow of 450 million litres, that's a lot of potentially very useful water going to waste.’
      • ‘Planning your meals ahead may save you money and lots of food and drink going to waste in the bin or down the drain’
      • ‘Often patients fail to turn up without any warning and it means their slot, which could have been taken by someone else, goes to waste.’
      • ‘That is why even today all the rice that is grown in Western Province goes to waste because there is no market for it.’
      • ‘Water is going to waste while others are without this vital commodity.’
      • ‘It was just a hobby, I didn't like to see anything 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’
      • ‘Their cities would be laid waste, their lands desolate.’
      • ‘This was then the period of the laying waste of the agricultural lands in the North.’
      • ‘Factories sprang up like fungi while the countryside was laid waste.’
      • ‘The city of Jerusalem, laid waste and destroyed by the Babylonians as an act of divine judgment, is described as having lost all its beauty.’
      • ‘Not for Napoleon the debate over animal waste in the food chain - he was too busy laying waste large tracts of Europe.’
      • ‘The destructive winds that lay waste the coast of Florida and various Caribbean islands pass through between September and November, a time when people batten down the hatches and hope for the best.’
      • ‘‘I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted,’ he said.’
      • ‘In fact, he even proposed that Athenians lay waste to their own lands to deny the Spartan army resources and the opportunity to do so itself; but he knew this was an unrealistic request of the people.’
      • ‘And the other thing about Hitler, of course, was his complacent conviction of the superiority of the German people - and of his right to wage unprovoked war and lay waste to other nations in their name.’
      • ‘The Northumbrians rebelled and in devastating reprisals their lands were laid to waste for several generations.’
      devastate, wipe out, destroy, demolish, annihilate, raze, ruin, leave in ruins, wreck, level, flatten, gut, consume, ravage, pillage, sack, wreak havoc on
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  • waste not, want not

    • proverb If you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need.

      • ‘In sports, the city's credo was waste not, want not.’
      • ‘Whatever the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history may be like, He is not the Protestant God of waste not, want not.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's time to kiss those landfill-clogging sandwich baggies goodbye and move into the waste not, want not 21st century.’
      • ‘On the principle of waste not, want not, I've pasted some material below that was originally intended for New York Press.’
      • ‘Waste not, want not applies to our spending habits too.’
      • ‘How do you feel the statement waste not want not applies in you life?’


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