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

1225–75; Middle English delaien (v.), delai(e) (noun) < Old French delaier (v.), delai (noun)
Related formsde·lay·a·ble, adjectivede·lay·er, nounde·lay·ing·ly, adverbpre·de·lay, noun, verbun·de·lay·a·ble, adjectiveun·de·lay·ing, adjectiveun·de·lay·ing·ly, adverb


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
2. slow, detain. 3. procrastinate, tarry. 4. tarrying, dawdling. 5. deferment, postponement, respite.

Synonym study

1. See defer1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

stoppage, lag, setback, moratorium, postponement, suspension, problem, wait, obstruct, defer, restrict, suspend, bar, detain, shelve, prevent, withhold, stay, prolong, stall

Examples from the Web for delay

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Some horrible accident might happen to delay us here thirty minutes.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Wilson, chafing under the delay, was obliged to admit to himself that it was best.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • In the making of fancies and jests he sees a chance of delay.

    De Profundis

    Oscar Wilde

  • Yates did not like to ask the cause of the delay; so the three sat there silently.

  • The idea never occurred to her that there should be the slightest hindrance or the least delay.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for delay


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

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for delay


c.1300, from Old French delaiier, from de- "away, from" (see de-) + laier "leave, let," probably a variant of Old French laissier, from Latin laxare "slacken, undo" (see lax). Related: Delayed; delaying.

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mid-13c., from Old French delaie, from delaiier (see delay (v.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper