Definition of wait in English:



[no object]
  • 1Stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or event.

    ‘he did not wait for a reply’
    ‘we're waiting for Allan to get back’
    ‘Vera did not wait on a Home Office ruling’
    with infinitive ‘Ben stood on the street corner waiting to cross’
    with object ‘I had to wait my turn to play’
    • ‘Maybe your parents are right about waiting a few more years until you decide.’
    • ‘They sat in the large leather armchairs to wait the arrival of the man on whom so much depended.’
    • ‘More than 3,000 Australian workers and their families are waiting on today's announcement about the car maker's future.’
    • ‘On the way back Mr Harrington meets another islander as he waits for the cable car to take him to the mainland.’
    • ‘Hundreds of couples wait in a line circling the block of San Francisco's City Hall.’
    • ‘He pointed out that students, teachers and parents had waited a long time for this building to become a reality.’
    • ‘Most of the time they have to stand and wait because it remains true that governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them.’
    • ‘Because of that some companies who were about to sign deals decided to wait before making a final decision.’
    • ‘However, I am wondering what harm could it have done to wait another week until we got it right?’
    • ‘We have got another three people waiting to be dealt with by the courts.’
    • ‘I peeked through the window behind my back and saw a young woman waiting in the car.’
    • ‘I don't want to do big studio films, sitting around all day on location in your trailer waiting to be called.’
    • ‘There were 3 people behind the bar, one serving and yet we waited 20 minutes.’
    • ‘So I waited a few days until temptation got the better of me and I rang the number.’
    • ‘But you don't need to wait for these events to happen before taking action.’
    • ‘Meanwhile Luque attempts an audacious strike from wide on the left rather than passing to several waiting team-mates.’
    • ‘To get the longest term go for a card deal that waits until the money hits your new account.’
    • ‘On the rare occasion a car approaches the bridge when we are crossing, the drivers usually stop and wait for us to cross.’
    • ‘Under the scorching sun, tens of thousands of people waited patiently to hear the speeches.’
    • ‘And I didn't want to be a woman that stayed at home to wait for my husband to come home every night.’
    stand by, hold back, be patient, bide one's time, hang fire, mark time, kill time, waste time, cool one's heels, kick one's heels, twiddle one's thumbs
    await, look out, watch out
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1wait 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’
    2. 1.2 Be left until a later time before being dealt with.
      ‘we shall need a statement later, but that will have to wait’
      • ‘Subtitled ‘another side of Cirque du Soleil,’ this one'll have to wait till the kids are in bed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Anyhoo, I've run out of energy, and so any investigation of what on Earth the Council of Ministers is, will have to wait till some other time.’
      be postponed, be delayed, be put off, be held back, be deferred
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3informal with object Defer (a meal) until a person's arrival.
      ‘I told my parents not to wait supper’
      • ‘He'd kept everything warm in the oven for her and Ashton agreed to wait dinner on her as he wasn't hungry.’
      delay, postpone, put off, hold off, hold back, defer
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 Remain in readiness for a purpose.
      ‘he found the train waiting on the platform’
      • ‘With a last look over his shoulder, he started pulling her towards the back of the ship where the raft waited.’
      • ‘The majority of the future NFL players were loaded into four coach buses waiting in the lot.’
      • ‘The funicular cars waited at an impossible angle on the sloping track.’
      • ‘The king's carriage waited just off the bridge, escorted by two mounted men at arms, one on either side.’
      • ‘There was a taxi waiting where the aircraft came to a halt so that they could avoid the muddy dirt of the airfield.’
      • ‘My guards' breath were puffs of crystal in the moonlight as they escorted me across the shipyard compound to where the wagon waited.’
      • ‘Drivers were being questioned, then told to pull off the road, to where a line of army vehicles waited.’
      • ‘Around the corner, in a narrow, cobbled lane that runs alongside the synagogue, an old Iveco tanker truck is waiting.’
      • ‘It isn't too far from here, and he'll probably have some food waiting when we get there.’
      • ‘The driver pointed a white-gloved hand in the direction of a small ferry boat waiting at the pier, its engine idling.’
      • ‘The whole incident was caught on CCTV cameras on a bus waiting nearby at Hounslow bus garage.’
      • ‘At the road end our bus was waiting to take us back to Te Anau and the end of a memorable experience.’
      • ‘One announcement said passengers should use an alternative bus service - but at one stage no bus was waiting.’
      • ‘The Alyeraen ships, especially the royal vessels never waited at the main docks.’
      stay, remain, rest, linger, loiter, dally, stop, stay put
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5 (of a vehicle) be parked for a short time at the side of a road.
      • ‘The council will also take control of the loading and waiting restrictions in place within the district.’
      • ‘The firm must stop vehicles waiting at the junction of Hill Top Lane and Chorley Old Road by putting yellow lines down.’
      • ‘The parents who think Deangate is a private car park, for example, despite the double yellow lines and no waiting notices.’
      • ‘The landscaping scheme will link in with a new footpath and cycleway at the back of the Fox and a new bus waiting area on Holgate Road.’
      • ‘Motorists can wait for free until arriving passengers call to say they are ready to be picked up.’
  • 2cannot waitUsed to indicate that one is eagerly impatient to do something or for something to happen.

    ‘I can't wait to tell Nick what happened’
    • ‘It hadn't occurred to me that people taking an acting class would find this scary, when I couldn't wait to get started.’
    • ‘Everyone else in the room looked like they were at a funeral from which they couldn't wait to escape.’
    • ‘I just can't wait for Southern Cross Station to be completed and all the trains to go back to normal.’
    • ‘I spent all those years in school and couldn't wait to leave and here I am, 25 years later, going back.’
    • ‘I made many good friends at work and had always enjoyed my time there, but by the time it was over I couldn't wait to see the back of the place.’
    • ‘Like nearly everyone who comes to Cape Town, we couldn't wait to head straight up Table Mountain.’
    • ‘If you can't wait till then check out their new Video/DVD on the EMI label, it's in the shops now.’
    • ‘Even though it was almost Christmas morning, he couldn't wait to see his presents.’
    • ‘Jason says: am going stir crazy… can't wait for Zoe to come pick up and take me to Ashford!’
    • ‘By the time I reached home every item of clothing I was wearing was nasty and I couldn't wait to strip off.’
    • ‘And even though the event is eleven months away, I'm sure that like me, you just can't wait!’
    • ‘He admits he dreaded weekends and couldn't wait to get back to work.’
    • ‘She went back to Ridgeway School earlier in September and couldn't wait to catch up with her friends.’
    • ‘Some people here couldn't wait to get rid of him, but look at what he has achieved.’
    • ‘With potatoes, carrots and peas and a tasty seasoned gravy, I couldn't wait to tuck in.’
    • ‘My head was full of ideas for my new design all day and I couldn't wait to get home and try them out.’
    • ‘One minute I would be terribly home sick and the next I couldn't wait to get into central London.’
    • ‘I can't wait till Christmas morning and we can set it up together.’
    • ‘It was my first present from him and I felt so gorgeous in it that I couldn't wait to show it off.’
    • ‘It used to be that you couldn't wait to turn 18 so you could go to the Republik.’
  • 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’
    • ‘I felt like a fraud, sitting in a pleasant room, served three delicious meals a day and being waited on by quietly efficient and obviously busy staff who even spoke a little English.’
    • ‘No free training and advice, no house, clothes and media spotlight, just singing, acting, shooting or writing between waiting on tables and scrubbing floors.’
    • ‘He then worked as an electronic appliance technician before switching to blue-collar jobs such as waiting on restaurant tables and selling audio equipment.’
    • ‘The role involves mainly waiting tables, but occasionally also working behind the bar.’
    • ‘The only member of that group who will wait on tables next Sunday is Sean Carroll who has served at all of the 45 parties.’
    • ‘The arts for most is a sacrifice and in New Zealand many of your favorite local artists may well have served you a drink, or waited on your table - when anywhere else in the world they may well be living the high life.’
    • ‘The fortnight was officially launched on Tuesday, with visitors to the city's Market Square being waited on and served fine food and drink.’
    • ‘Some 12 or so young people from the Fagley Youth Club waited on table, served our food and generally looked after us to make it a wonderful party.’
    • ‘Testino arrived from Lima, in Peru, almost thirty years ago, with nothing to his name and ended up waiting tables to pay his way.’
    • ‘If the truth be known, waiting tables was my only income.’
    • ‘Seneca ridiculed a wealthy man because he kept a handsome slave who was dressed like a woman when he waited at table.’
    • ‘The greatest of celebrity musicians will do fine under any system, while those who are currently waiting on tables or driving a cab to support themselves have nothing to lose.’
    • ‘In 1938, a young Tennessee Williams earned his keep waiting on tables in nearby Toulouse Street.’
    • ‘He was one of the footmen who waited at table.’
    act as waiter, act as waitress, distribute food, distribute refreshments
    View synonyms


  • 1in singular A period of waiting.

    ‘we had a long wait’
    • ‘As for getting swift action, our 30-year wait speaks for itself.’
    • ‘Show up early, because no matter what time you go, there will be an interminable wait.’
    • ‘With only two lifts operational at any one time and 12 floors to service the wait intervals drove many to the stairs.’
    • ‘Travellers to North America face a further wait as US airspace remained closed this evening.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, local families with loved ones on holiday in southern Asia face an anxious wait for news.’
    • ‘Rowena knew what this involved: a wait of several hours in a small and sometimes crowded waiting room.’
    • ‘Customer wait time has been reduced by more than 3.4 days.’
    • ‘When clients come to me I see them once or twice to see if I'm the right architect, and then there's the wait period.’
    • ‘Desperate motorists say they face an hour wait when trying to leave the car park at the end of the day.’
    • ‘The announcement ends a long wait for a permanent successor to Dean Robinson, who left the club in March.’
    • ‘Also today, news comes that British holidaymakers heading for the United States face a five-hour wait to check in.’
    • ‘Meanwhile passengers have faced waits of up to 6 hours between check-in and departure.’
    • ‘Patients experience shorter wait times because they can plan ahead for a specific date and approximate procedure time.’
    • ‘Now she has been told that her operation has been postponed for two months in addition to the usual wait of three to four months.’
    • ‘Her family faced an agonising wait to see the extent of her injuries.’
    • ‘But for Fred Storr, on the waiting list since November, the wait was too long.’
    • ‘So the big question is, has the wait been worth it?’
    • ‘Unfortunately, a train has just left the station, and it will be quite a wait for the next one.’
    • ‘The wait seemed interminable, and slowly she nodded off to sleep.’
    • ‘Rather than making a mad dash and then facing an indefinite wait at the station, check Tubetrack for your next train.’
    delay, hold-up, period of waiting, interval, interlude, intermission, pause, break, stay, cessation, suspension, detention, check, stoppage, halt, interruption, lull, respite, recess, postponement, discontinuation, moratorium, hiatus, gap, lapse, rest, entr'acte
    View synonyms
  • 2waitsarchaic Street singers of Christmas carols.

    • ‘Originally they were mummers, performing traditional plays, and they then became known as waits, who would tour the town every evening before Christmas.’
    1. 2.1historical Official bands of musicians maintained by a city or town.
      • ‘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.’


  • in wait

    • Watching for an enemy or potential victim and preparing to attack them.

      ‘he decided to lie in wait for the thief’
      • ‘The viciousness of the invective makes it seem like they must have had their knives sharpened for a long time, laying in wait for your next book.’
      • ‘Gang members had followed them to the hospital and were lying in wait.’
      • ‘Lying in wait at so many of these turning points in Henman's career has been Canas.’
      • ‘They lay in wait for him on the York ring road, then rammed his car and attacked him with a monkey wrench.’
      • ‘There's no word as to when his trial will take place, although a specially built courtroom is sitting in wait at Guantanamo Bay.’
      • ‘I don't know what plans he had but he was probably hiding in wait for the lights in the house to go out so that he could break in.’
      • ‘But their plan was foiled by detectives who were sitting in wait near the Swissport cargo warehouse on May 17 last year.’
      • ‘Trouble arose after the final whistle when a gang of 200 to 300 Leeds supporters gathered outside in wait for Cardiff fans leaving the Elland Road stadium.’
      • ‘A gang of thugs who lay in wait before attacking a man with a baseball bat and an iron bar could strike again, say detectives.’
      • ‘Occasions that cried out for a drop-goal attempt, especially with Eric Elwood and McHugh in wait, were passed up, as Connacht went for broke.’
  • wait and see

    • Wait to find out what will happen before doing something.

      ‘we will have to wait and see what happens’
      • ‘I will have to wait and see how the weather goes during the morning as they say this part of the country is set to be hit by snow again today.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They arrived at the hospital just after 4am and it was then wait and see for a number of hours.’
      • ‘I haven't been able to find much information on the actual risks to adults, so we'll have to wait and see.’
      • ‘Hopefully it won't be too bad to seriously affect my overall grade, I'll have to wait and see.’
      • ‘Whether this will ever filter down to street-level, though, we'll have to wait and see.’
      • ‘We don't jump to any conclusions; we just wait and see what we have to deal with - and then deal with it.’
      • ‘Well, we have to wait and see in this case if the defense is going to put in for bail.’
      • ‘So we will have to wait and see what happens on Friday afternoon I guess.’
  • wait for it

    • informal Do not act before the proper moment.

      ‘patrol—wait for it—halt!’
      • ‘Thankfully, that gap has now been closed by the arrival this year of the Festival of, wait for it, Politics.’
      • ‘It spends great amounts of time and effort on - wait for it - fox hunting.’
      • ‘The Scottish Executive's radical new tool to crank up standards is - wait for it - headteachers.’
      • ‘Instead, he will sit tight on his list seat in Holyrood until he can have a crack at - wait for it - Westminster.’
      • ‘The lot causing most stir among Clemente collectors is, wait for it, debris from his smashed-up plane.’
      • ‘In Britain the people who take their own life more than anyone else are… wait for it… vets.’
      • ‘Scotland's best golfer is no fan of links golf and played very little of it as a youngster brought up in, wait for it, Leeds.’
      • ‘We are promised not more grand policy but - wait for it - an Action Plan.’
      • ‘Currently, the best Earth-bound instrument is called, wait for it, the Very Large Telescope.’
      • ‘Oh, and turn up your speakers for - wait for it - the building site sound effects.’
  • you wait

    • Used to convey a threat or promise.

      ‘you wait until your Dad gets in!’
      • ‘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.

      ‘a maid was appointed to wait on her’
      • ‘The coachman obediently waited on me and put out a hand to assist me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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, cater for, cater to, act as a waiter to, act as a waitress to
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1archaic Pay a respectful visit to.
        ‘a deputation had waited upon Lords Salisbury, Redesdale, and Roxburghe’
        • ‘It states that any deputation waiting on a Minister or member after a demonstration is limited to six.’
        • ‘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.’
    • 2Await the convenience of.

      ‘to see the full series, we will have to wait on the BBC’
      • ‘He said there was need for the leadership to give people direction by providing information in the public domain which would make people begin to take the lead in issues of economic management rather than wait on government.’
      • ‘Productivity grew about half its previous rate during this period - no politicians fault; it waits on maturing technologies.’
      • ‘The problem is that we're waiting on the justice system.’
      • ‘The rest of the group sat and waited on her patiently.’
      • ‘I'm waiting on our tech people to pull the pics off the digital camera…’
      • ‘As the nation waits on Florida, Bruce Morton takes a look back at past presidential transitions that have not always been clear-cut.’
      • ‘Cancer patients recovering in hospital will no longer have to wait on the postman for their get well soon cards.’
      • ‘They were waiting on the Department to roll out the breast check screening service in the South East.’
      • ‘‘We're waiting on an expert witness who is unavailable until that day,’ Hettel said.’
      1. 2.1Northern English NZ Australian informal Refrain from doing something until something else happens.
        ‘wait on, I've an important message for you’
        • ‘Also, sex is something that one should wait on until you are ready.’
        • ‘Well, let's wait on dinner a bit until we all calm down.’
        • ‘But I'll wait on a Voyager movie until they show it on a Friday night on UPN.’
        • ‘She had decided to wait on telling Fredi until the perfect moment, so she had to pretend as if nothing were wrong.’
        • ‘We'll wait on the beets until the next crop comes in with fresh tops.’
  • wait up

    • 1Not go to bed until someone arrives or something happens.

      ‘I'll be back late. Don't wait up for me’
      • ‘Even though it was after midnight, her parents were still waiting up to hear the results.’
      • ‘His father always waited up until his son returned from meetings late in the evening.’
      • ‘He was surprised to find his father waiting up for him when he arrived home close to midnight.’
      • ‘Thousands of Swindon youngsters will be eagerly waiting up for Santa to drop down the chimney tonight.’
      • ‘And he always waits up for me, just to know that I got home safely.’
      • ‘Manager Don Givens waited up until 4am for the player to return to HQ, at which point he gave up and went to bed.’
      • ‘Thank the Lord, you no longer feel compelled to wait up until midnight on New Year's Eve.’
      • ‘Instead of watching Rage, the Simpsons and Neighbours, I find myself waiting up for the end of Law and Order then crashing as soon as it finishes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Some people fervently expected the end of the world a year ago and waited up late for a ‘rapture’ that never arrived.’
      stay awake, stay up, keep vigil
      View synonyms
    • 2Go more slowly or stop until someone catches up.

      ‘the kids bound out of sight, and I shout ‘Wait up!’’
      • ‘He dropped the keys into his pocket, thinking of what was just ahead of them, starting on the sidewalk without any intention of waiting up for Brooke to get out of the car.’
      • ‘Katrina stared open-mouthed and then after a moment of hesitation, she followed Ashley, shouting for her to wait up.’
      • ‘‘Hey Lizzy, wait up,’ Josh shouted as he grabbed his luggage and started to run to catch up with her.’
      • ‘We rode towards Baker Lake, but before reaching the lake stopped to wait up for Michael and Cathy.’
      • ‘I sassed when he caught up with me as I didn't wait up for him like he asked me too.’


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