[ dih-ley ]
/ dɪˈleɪ /
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See synonyms for: delay / delayed / delaying / delays on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
to put off to a later time; defer; postpone: The pilot delayed the flight until the weather cleared.
to impede the process or progress of; retard; hinder: The dense fog delayed the plane's landing.
verb (used without object)
to put off action; linger; dally: He delayed until it was too late.
the act of delaying; procrastination.
an instance of being delayed: There were many delays during the train trip.
the period or amount of time during which something is delayed: The ballet performance began after a half-hour delay.


4 tarrying, dawdling, loitering.
5 deferment, postponement, respite.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of delay

First recorded in 1225–75; Middle English delaien (verb), delai(e) (noun), from Old French delaier (verb), delai (noun)

synonym study for delay

1. See defer1.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does delay mean?

As a verb, delay means to put something off or postpone it until later, or to cause something to take longer or to be late.

As a noun, delay means an instance of something being postponed till later, or the amount of time between when something was supposed to happen and when it does happen (the lull or interlude).

Example: The convention has not been canceled—it has been delayed until we can find a proper venue.

Where does delay come from?

Delay has been used in English since before 1300. It comes from the Old French delaier, which is formed from de-, meaning “off,” and laier, a variant of laissier, meaning “to leave.” This is derived from the Latin laxare, “to loosen,” from laxus, “slack, lax.”

We may hate waiting, but delays are part of our daily life. If there’s a shipping delay, it means the thing we ordered is going to arrive later than expected. If there’s a traffic jam, we’re told to expect major delays, meaning it’s going to take a lot longer than usual to get where we’re going. Rain delays happen when it rains at outdoor sporting events, but that doesn’t always mean that the game gets canceled—it usually just gets delayed until the rain stops. When there’s a snowstorm, schools might open later, after a two-hour delay. These examples all use delay as a noun, but delay as a verb is just as common.

If we delay a meeting, we postpone it until later. If our flight has been delayed, it means the plane is taking longer than scheduled to arrive—probably because it left later than expected or it ran into bad weather. Another meaning of delay as a verb is “to wait” or “to procrastinate.” This sense is seen in advertisements that tell us don’t delay—order now while supplies last!

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to delay?

  • delayable (adjective)
  • delayingly (adverb)
  • delayer (noun)
  • predelay (noun, verb)

What are some synonyms for delay?

What are some words that share a root or word element with delay

What are some words that often get used in discussing delay?


How is delay used in real life?

Delay is used in all kinds of situations in which things have been postponed or are running behind schedule.



Try using delay!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of delay?

A. lag
B. lax
C. lull
D. linger

How to use delay in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for delay

/ (dɪˈleɪ) /

(tr) to put off to a later time; defer
(tr) to slow up, hinder, or cause to be late; detain
(intr) to be irresolute or put off doing something; procrastinate
(intr) to linger; dawdle
the act or an instance of delaying or being delayed
the interval between one event and another; lull; interlude

Derived forms of delay

delayer, noun

Word Origin for delay

C13: from Old French delaier, from des- off + laier, variant of laissier to leave, from Latin laxāre to loosen, from laxus slack, lax
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