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[weyt] /weɪt/
verb (used without object)
to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens (often followed by for, till, or until):
to wait for the bus to arrive.
(of things) to be available or in readiness:
A letter is waiting for you.
to remain neglected for a time:
a matter that can wait.
to postpone or delay something or to be postponed or delayed:
We waited a week and then bought the house. Your vacation will have to wait until next month.
to look forward to eagerly:
I'm just waiting for the day somebody knocks him down.
verb (used with object)
to continue as one is in expectation of; await:
to wait one's turn at a telephone booth.
to postpone or delay in expectation:
Don't wait supper for me.
Archaic. (of things) to be in readiness for; be reserved for; await:
Glory waits thee.
Archaic. to attend upon or escort, especially as a sign of respect.
an act or instance of waiting or awaiting; delay; halt:
a wait at the border.
a period or interval of waiting:
There will be a long wait between trains.
  1. the time between two acts, scenes, or the like.
  2. stage wait.
  1. waits, (formerly) a band of musicians employed by a city or town to play music in parades, for official functions, etc.
  2. a street musician, especially a singer.
  3. one of a band of carolers.
  4. a piece sung by carolers, especially a Christmas carol.
Obsolete. a watchman.
Verb phrases
wait on,
  1. to perform the duties of an attendant or servant for.
  2. to supply the wants of a person, as serving a meal or serving a customer in a store.
  3. to call upon or visit (a person, especially a superior):
    to wait on Her Majesty at the palace.
  4. Falconry. (of a hawk) to soar over ground until prey appears.
  5. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. to wait for (a person); await.
  6. Also, wait upon. to await (an event).
wait up,
  1. to postpone going to bed to await someone's arrival.
  2. Informal. to halt and wait for another to join one, as in running or walking:
    Wait up, I can't walk so fast.
lie in wait, to wait in ambush:
The army lay in wait in the forest.
wait table. table (def 26).
Origin of wait
early Middle English
1150-1200; (v.) early Middle English waiten < Anglo-French waitier; Old French guaitier < Germanic; cognate with Old High German wahtēn to watch, derivative of wahta a watch (see wake1); (noun) late Middle English < AF derivative of waitier
Can be confused
wait, weight.
1. await, linger, abide, delay. Wait, tarry imply pausing to linger and thereby putting off further activity until later. Wait usually implies staying for a limited time and for a definite purpose, that is, for something expected: to wait for a train. Tarry is a somewhat archaic word for wait, but it suggests lingering, perhaps aimlessly delaying, or pausing (briefly) in a journey: to tarry on the way home; to tarry overnight at an inn.
Usage note
15e, f. Sometimes considered objectionable in standard usage, the idiom wait on meaning “to wait for, to await (a person)” is largely confined to speech or written representations of speech. It is most common in the Midland and Southern United States: Let's not wait on Rachel, she's always late. Wait on or upon (an event) does not have a regional pattern and occurs in a wide variety of contexts: We will wait on (or upon) his answer and make our decision then. The completion of the merger waits upon news of a drop in interest rates. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for waits
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Night is the same as day to Le Subtil, when Munro waits for him.

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • If she waits for one of the German ships to call she may have to wait three or four months.

    Tessa Louis Becke
  • He was perfectly contented to bide his time, remembering that adage: "All things come to him who waits."

    Dorothy at Skyrie Evelyn Raymond
  • But the waits do not treat you with music for love—they come for payment afterwards.

  • No one ever waits really patiently for another to read what he or she has already read.

    When Ghost Meets Ghost William Frend De Morgan
British Dictionary definitions for waits


when intr, often foll by for, until, or to. to stay in one place or remain inactive in expectation (of something); hold oneself in readiness (for something)
to delay temporarily or be temporarily delayed: that work can wait
when intr, usually foll by for. (of things) to be in store (for a person): success waits for you in your new job
(intransitive) to act as a waiter or waitress
the act or an instance of waiting
a period of waiting
(pl) (rare) a band of musicians who go around the streets, esp at Christmas, singing and playing carols
an interlude or interval between two acts or scenes in a play, etc
lie in wait, to prepare an ambush (for someone)
See also wait on, wait up
Word Origin
C12: from Old French waitier; related to Old High German wahtēn to wake1
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 waits



c.1200, "to watch with hostile intent, lie in wait for," from Old North French waitier "to watch" (Old French gaitier, Modern French guetter), from Frankish *wahton (cf. Dutch wacht "a watching," Old High German wahten, German wachten "to watch, to guard;" Old High German wahhon "to watch, be awake," Old English wacian "to be awake;" see wake (v.)). General sense of "remain in some place" is from late 14c.; that of "to see to it that something occurs" is late 14c. Meaning "to stand by in attendance on" is late 14c.; specific sense of "serve as an attendant at a table" is from 1560s. Related: Waited; waiting.

To wait (something) out "endure a period of waiting" is recorded from 1909, originally American English, in reference to baseball batters trying to draw a base on balls. Waiting game is recorded from 1890. Waiting room is attested from 1680s. Waiting list is recorded from 1897; the verb wait-list "to put (someone) on a waiting list" is recorded from 1960.


early 13c., "a watcher, onlooker," from Old North French wait, Old French gaite, from gaitier (see wait (v.)). From late 14c. as "an ambush, a trap" (as in lie in wait).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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waits in Technology

/wayts/ The mutant cousin of TOPS-10 used on a handful of systems at SAIL up to 1990. There was never an "official" expansion of WAITS (the name itself having been arrived at by a rather sideways process), but it was frequently glossed as "West-coast Alternative to ITS". Though WAITS was less visible than ITS, there was frequent exchange of people and ideas between the two communities, and innovations pioneered at WAITS exerted enormous indirect influence. The early screen modes of Emacs, for example, were directly inspired by WAITS's "E" editor - one of a family of editors that were the first to do "real-time editing", in which the editing commands were invisible and where one typed text at the point of insertion/overwriting. The modern style of multi-region windowing is said to have originated there, and WAITS alumni at XEROX PARC and elsewhere played major roles in the developments that led to the XEROX Star, the Macintosh, and the Sun workstations. Bucky bits were also invented there thus, the ALT key on every IBM PC is a WAITS legacy. One notable WAITS feature seldom duplicated elsewhere was a news-wire interface that allowed WAITS hackers to read, store, and filter AP and UPI dispatches from their terminals; the system also featured a still-unusual level of support for what is now called "multimedia" computing, allowing analog audio and video signals to be switched to programming terminals.
Ken Shoemake adds:
Some administrative body told us we needed a name for the operating system, and that "SAIL" wouldn't do. (Up to that point I don't think it had an official name.) So the anarchic denizens of the lab proposed names and voted on them. Although I worked on the OS used by CCRMA folks (a parasitic subgroup), I was not writing WAITS code. Those who were, proposed "SAINTS", for (I think) Stanford AI New Time-sharing System. Thinking of ITS, and AI, and the result of many people using one machine, I proposed the name WAITS. Since I invented it, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it had no official meaning. Nevertheless, the lab voted that as their favorite; upon which the disgruntled system programmers declared it the "Worst Acronym Invented for a Time-sharing System"! But it was in keeping with the creative approach to acronyms extant at the time, including self-referential ones. For me it was fun, if a little unsettling, to have an "acronym" that wasn't. I have no idea what the voters thought. :)
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with waits
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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