go to waste, to fail to be used or consumed; be wasted: She hates to see good food go to waste.
    lay waste, to devastate; destroy; ruin: Forest fires lay waste thousands of acres yearly.

Origin of waste

1150–1200; 1960–65 for def 6; (adj.) Middle English < Old North French wast (Old French g(u)ast) < Latin vāstus desolate; (v.) Middle English < Old North French waster (Old French g(u)aster) < Latin vāstāre, derivative of vāstus; (noun) Middle English < Old North French wast(e) (Old French g(u)aste), partly < Latin vāstum, noun use of neuter of vāstus, partly derivative of waster; Old North French w-, Old French gu- by influence of cognate with Frankish *wōsti desolate (cognate with Old High German wuosti)
Related formswast·a·ble, adjectivewaste·less, adjectiveout·waste, verb (used with object), out·wast·ed, out·wast·ing.un·wast·a·ble, adjective
Can be confusedwaist waste

Synonyms for waste

Synonym study

19. See desert1. 36. See ravage.

Antonyms for waste

1. save. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for go to waste



(tr) to use, consume, or expend thoughtlessly, carelessly, or to no avail
(tr) to fail to take advantage ofto waste an opportunity
(when intr, often foll by away) to lose or cause to lose bodily strength, health, etc
to exhaust or become exhausted
(tr) to ravage
(tr) informal to murder or killI want that guy wasted by tomorrow


the act of wasting or state of being wasted
a failure to take advantage of something
anything unused or not used to full advantage
anything or anyone rejected as useless, worthless, or in excess of what is required
garbage, rubbish, or trash
a land or region that is devastated or ruined
a land or region that is wild or uncultivated
  1. the useless products of metabolism
  2. indigestible food residue
disintegrated rock material resulting from erosion
law reduction in the value of an estate caused by act or neglect, esp by a life-tenant


rejected as useless, unwanted, or worthless
produced in excess of what is required
not cultivated, inhabited, or productivewaste land
  1. of or denoting the useless products of metabolism
  2. of or denoting indigestible food residue
destroyed, devastated, or ruined
designed to contain or convey waste products
lay waste to devastate or destroy
Derived Formswastable, adjective

Word Origin for waste

C13: from Anglo-French waster, from Latin vastāre to lay waste, from vastus empty
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 go to waste



c.1200, "desolate regions," from Old French wast, from Latin vastum, neuter of vastus "waste" (see waste (v.)).

Replaced Old English westen, woesten "a desert, wilderness," from the Latin word. Meaning "useless expenditure" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "refuse matter" is attested from c.1400. Waste basket first recorded 1850. Waste-paper first recorded 1580s.



c.1200, "devastate, ravage, ruin," from Anglo-French and Old North French waster "to spoil, ruin" (Old French guaster), altered (by influence of Frankish *wostjan) from Latin vastare "lay waste," from vastus "empty, desolate, waste" (see vain).

The word also existed in Old English as westan. Meaning "to lose strength or health; pine; weaken" is attested from c.1300; the sense of "squander, spend or consume uselessly" is first recorded mid-14c.; meaning "to kill" is from 1964. Wasted "intoxicated" is slang from 1950s. The adjective is recorded from late 13c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

go to waste in Medicine




To gradually lose energy, strength, or bodily substance, as from disease.


The undigested residue of food eliminated from the body; excrement.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

go to waste in Science




An unusable or unwanted substance or material, such as a waste product. See also hazardous waste landfill.


To lose or cause to lose energy, strength, weight, or vigor, as by the progressive effects of a disease such as metastatic cancer.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with go to waste

go to waste

Fail to be used or taken advantage of. For example, I hate to see such talent go to waste, or We bought so much food that some will be going to waste. [c. 1500]


In addition to the idioms beginning with waste

  • waste away
  • waste not, want not
  • waste one's breath

also see:

  • go to waste
  • haste makes waste
  • lay waste
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.