a period of waiting; pause, interval, or delay.


serving or being in attendance: waiting man; waiting maid; waiting woman.


    in waiting, in attendance, as upon a royal personage.

Origin of waiting

1150–1200; Middle English (noun); see wait, -ing1, -ing2
Related formswait·ing·ly, adverb



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

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 confusedwait weight

Synonyms for wait

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

Examples from the Web for waiting

Contemporary Examples of waiting

Historical Examples of waiting

  • Mrs. Drelmer glanced above to where some one seemed to be waiting for him.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • When he came out ten minutes later Uncle Peter was waiting for him alone.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He looked over her shoulder again, and saw that Shepler was waiting for her.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He was waiting to obtain the papacy, when he would deal better with the abuses.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • He is to sup at the Deanery to-morrow, and I am to be in waiting to see him.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

British Dictionary definitions for waiting



(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 waiting



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).



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with waiting


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.