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[loi-ter] /ˈlɔɪ tər/
verb (used without object)
to linger aimlessly or as if aimless in or about a place:
to loiter around the bus terminal.
to move in a slow, idle manner, making purposeless stops in the course of a trip, journey, errand, etc.:
to loiter on the way to work.
to waste time or dawdle over work:
He loiters over his homework until one in the morning.
verb (used with object)
to pass (time) in an idle or aimless manner (usually followed by away):
to loiter away the afternoon in daydreaming.
Origin of loiter
1300-50; Middle English loteren, loytren, perhaps < Middle Dutch loteren to stagger, totter; compare Dutch leuteren to dawdle
Related forms
loiterer, noun
loiteringly, adverb
1. Loiter, dally, dawdle, idle imply moving or acting slowly, stopping for unimportant reasons, and in general wasting time. To loiter is to linger aimlessly: to loiter outside a building. To dally is to loiter indecisively or to delay as if free from care or responsibility: to dally on the way home. To dawdle is to saunter, stopping often, and taking a great deal of time, or to fritter away time working in a halfhearted way: to dawdle over a task. To idle is to move slowly and aimlessly, or to spend a great deal of time doing nothing: to idle away the hours. 1–4. loaf. 2, 3. delay, tarry. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for loitered
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Meg loitered a moment watching her, then she clambered over the stile and was off.

    Meg's Friend Alice Abigail Corkran
  • He had loitered so long about the Junction that it was the eighteenth of December when he left it.

    Mugby Junction Charles Dickens
  • Breakfast was not loitered over on the following morning, and we hurried out to our post.

    Little Brothers of the Air Olive Thorne Miller
  • They had loitered along the way and he had simply outstripped them.

    Dorothy on a Ranch Evelyn Raymond
  • Jim looked at her, loitered, played with his cap, and seemed unwilling to leave.

    Catharine Furze Mark Rutherford
  • Scarcely had they loitered through her lips ere she was lost in slumber.

    The Short-story William Patterson Atkinson
  • He loitered around the house, and threw himself in Margaret's way when she went out visiting or shopping.

    Gabriel Tolliver Joel Chandler Harris
  • He loitered about in adjacent doorways, quite like a hired fellow.

    Ruggles of Red Gap Harry Leon Wilson
British Dictionary definitions for loitered


(intransitive) to stand or act aimlessly or idly
Derived Forms
loiterer, noun
loitering, noun, adjective
Word Origin
C14: perhaps from Middle Dutch löteren to wobble: perhaps related to Old English lūtian to lurk
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for loitered



early 15c., "idle one's time, dawdle over work," from Middle Dutch loteren "be loose or erratic, shake, totter" like a loose tooth or a sail in a storm; in modern Dutch, leuteren "to delay, linger, loiter over one's work." Probably cognate with Old English lutian "lurk," and related to Old English loddere "beggar;" Old High German lotar "empty, vain," luzen "lurk;" German Lotterbube "vagabond, rascal," lauschen "eavesdrop;" Gothic luton "mislead;" Old English lyðre "base, bad, wicked." Related: Loitered; loitering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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