Nearby words

  1. waistcloth,
  2. waistcoat,
  3. waistcoating,
  4. waisted,
  5. waistline,
  6. wait a minute,
  7. wait and see,
  8. wait at table,
  9. wait for the other shoe to drop,
  10. wait on


    lie in wait, to wait in ambush: The army lay in wait in the forest.
    wait table. table(def 26).

Origin of wait

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

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.

Can be confusedwait weight

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for wait up

wait up

verb (intr, adverb)

to delay going to bed in order to await some event
informal, mainly US and Canadian to halt and pause in order that another person may catch up



(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 delayedthat 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
(intr) to act as a waiter or waitress


the act or an instance of waiting
a period of waiting
(plural) 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 for wait

C12: from Old French waitier; related to Old High German wahtēn to wake 1

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 wait up
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with wait up

wait up


Postpone going to bed in anticipation of someone or something, as in My parents always wait up until I get home, no matter how late it is. [Mid-1800s]


Stop or pause so that another can catch up, as in Let's wait up for the stragglers, or Don't walk so fast; wait up for me. [Colloquial]


In addition to the idioms beginning with wait

  • wait a minute
  • wait and see
  • wait at table
  • wait for the other shoe to drop
  • waiting game
  • waiting in the wings
  • wait on
  • wait on hand and foot
  • wait out
  • wait up

also see:

  • can't wait
  • hurry up and wait
  • in waiting
  • lie in wait
  • play a waiting game
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.