Meaning of DELAY in English


1. to make someone or something arrive late

2. to make something happen later or take longer than it should

3. to deliberately delay someone or something

4. a situation in which someone or something is delayed


arrange to do something later than planned : ↑ LATER

see also





1. to make someone or something arrive late

▷ be delayed /biː dɪˈleɪd/ [verb phrase]

to make someone or something late - use this especially about a problem or something unexpected :

▪ Mr Evans has been delayed but will be joining us shortly.

▪ Our plane was delayed by fog.

▪ I mustn’t delay you any longer.

get delayed

▪ There was an accident on the freeway and we got delayed.

▷ make somebody late /ˌmeɪk somebody ˈleɪt/ [verb phrase not in passive]

to delay someone or something so that they arrive somewhere late :

make sb late for

▪ The accident made us late for work.

▪ I’ll let you go - I don’t want to make you late for your appointment.

make somebody late doing something

▪ Catching a later train made Frank late getting to the office.

▷ hold up /ˌhəʊld ˈʌp/ [transitive phrasal verb]

to make someone or something stop or go more slowly when they are going somewhere :

hold somebody up

▪ I won’t hold you up - I can see you’re in a hurry.

hold up somebody/something

▪ Get a move on, you two! You’re holding up the whole queue!

be/get held up

▪ We got held up in traffic and missed the show.

▷ keep /kiːp/ [transitive verb not in passive] informal

to delay someone when they are trying to go somewhere :

▪ He should be here by now. What’s keeping him?

▷ detain /dɪˈteɪn/ [transitive verb] formal

to delay someone, especially by keeping them talking or working :

▪ I won’t detain you for much longer, Miss Reid. There are just a few more questions that I need to ask you.

be unavoidably detained

by something that you cannot prevent

▪ Mr Jones should be here, but I’m afraid he’s been unavoidably detained.

2. to make something happen later or take longer than it should

▷ delay /dɪˈleɪ/ [transitive verb usually in passive]

to make something happen later than it should, or take longer than it should :

▪ The President’s visit had to be delayed because of security problems.

▪ This latest terrorist attack is bound to delay the peace talks even further.

delay by

▪ The plane’s departure was delayed by mechanical problems.

be delayed for 5 hours/2 months etc

▪ The opening of the new bridge may be delayed for several months.

▷ hold up /ˌhəʊld ˈʌp/ [transitive phrasal verb]

to make something happen late, or make it happen more slowly than it should :

hold up something

▪ Protesters held up work on the new road.

be held up by something

▪ The peace talks are being held up by continued fighting on the border.

hold somebody/something up

▪ They should have finished that job on Friday - what’s holding them up?

▪ Her stubbornness on this one issue is holding the whole deal up.

▷ set back also put back British /ˌset ˈbæk, ˌpʊt ˈbæk/ [transitive phrasal verb]

to delay the progress or development of something by a number of weeks, months etc :

set somebody/something etc back

▪ Your mistake has set us back several weeks.

▪ The Transportation Department first announced that the expressway would be completed by 2002, but it has since set the timetable back.

set back somebody/something

▪ The start date kept being put back, for a variety of reasons.

▷ get bogged down /get ˌbɒgd ˈdaʊnǁ-ˌbɑːgd-/ [verb phrase] informal

if a person or planned piece of work gets bogged down, they are delayed and prevented from continuing because of complicated or difficult problems :

get bogged down in

▪ The project got bogged down in a series of legal disputes.

get bogged down by

▪ Keep the document simple and avoid getting bogged down by complicated formatting.

3. to deliberately delay someone or something

▷ stall /stɔːl/ [intransitive/transitive verb]

to deliberately delay doing something, or to deliberately stop someone else from doing something until a later time, either because you are not ready or to give yourself an advantage :

▪ Quit stalling and tell me where she is.

▪ I’m not ready to talk to him yet - go out there and see if you can stall him.

▪ City officials have slowed the development by stalling building permits for the area.

▷ play for time /ˌpleɪ fəʳ ˈtaɪm/ [verb phrase]

to deliberately try to delay doing something or making a decision, because you are not ready or want more time to think about it :

▪ Stop playing for time and give us an answer.

▪ The rebel’s current ceasefire doesn’t amount to much more than playing for time.

▷ delaying tactics /dɪˈleɪ-ɪŋ ˌtæktɪks/ [plural noun]

methods used, especially by politicians, in order to delay a plan or decision so that something can be done during the delay :

▪ Some politicians are prepared to use delaying tactics to block the bill.

▪ The peace negotiations were being held up by the delaying tactics of France and Great Britain.

▷ procrastinate /prəˈkræstɪneɪt, prəˈkræstəneɪt/ [intransitive verb]

to delay doing something that you ought to do, usually because you do not want to do it - used especially to show disapproval :

▪ He hesitated and procrastinated for weeks before he finally told her he wanted their relationship to end.

procrastinate about/over

▪ Certain players are procrastinating over their contracts in order to see how much money they can squeeze out of their clubs.

procrastination /prəˌkræstɪˈneɪʃ ə n/ [uncountable noun]

▪ She finally agreed to take the job after months of procrastination.

4. a situation in which someone or something is delayed

▷ delay /dɪˈleɪ/ [countable/uncountable noun]

when someone or something is delayed :

▪ Any delay in the production process is costly to a company.

long delay

▪ The strike is causing long delays at the airport

three months’/several weeks’ etc delay

▪ After three months’ delay, work finally began on the new building.

delay in doing something

▪ There have been a lot of complaints about delays in issuing passports.

▷ hold-up/holdup /ˈhəʊld ʌp/ [countable noun]

a delay, especially one caused by an unexpected problem, that interrupts a journey or a piece of work :

▪ An accident on the London-Brighton road has caused a major hold-up.

▪ There’s been a hold-up with the builders, so the new office won’t be ready for several months.

▷ bottleneck /ˈbɒtlnekǁˈbɑː-/ [countable noun]

a delay in one stage of a process that stops making progress and makes the whole process take longer :

▪ There’s always going to be a bottleneck because only two people review all the applications.

▪ If we don’t hire more people in production we’re going to have a huge bottleneck in a few months.

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