Meaning of WAIT in English

I. wait 1 S1 W1 /weɪt/ BrE AmE verb

[ Date: 1100-1200 ; Language: Old North French ; Origin: waitier 'to watch' ]

1 . NOT GO/START SOMETHING [intransitive] to stay somewhere or not do something until something else happens, someone arrives etc:

Hurry up! Everyone’s waiting.

Would you mind waiting outside?

wait for

a queue of people waiting for a bus

Wait for me!

wait for somebody/something to do something

She paused, waiting for Myles to say something.

I sat waiting patiently for the wedding to end.

wait until/till

I’ll wait till you come back.

wait (for) three hours/two weeks etc

Can you wait for five minutes?

We’ve been waiting ages.

wait to do something

Are you waiting to use the phone?

keep somebody waiting (=make someone wait, especially by arriving late)

I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.

► Do not say that you ‘are waiting’ someone or something. Say that you are waiting for someone or something.

2 . SOMETHING HAS NOT HAPPENED [intransitive] if you are waiting for something that you expect or hope will happen or arrive, it has not happened or arrived yet:

‘Have you heard about the job?’ ‘No, I’m still waiting.’

wait for

I’m still waiting for my results.

wait for somebody/something to do something

I’m waiting for him to realize how stupid he’s been.

3 . wait a minute/second/moment etc spoken

a) used to ask someone not to leave or start doing something immediately:

Wait a second, I’ll get my coat and come with you.

Wait a moment, just let me think.

b) used to interrupt someone, especially because you do not agree with what they are saying:

Wait a minute! That’s not what we agreed!

c) used when you suddenly think of, remember, or notice something:

Wait a minute, I’ve got a better idea.

4 . somebody can’t wait/can hardly wait spoken

a) used to emphasize that someone is very excited about something and is eager for it to happen:

We’re going to Australia on Saturday – I can’t wait!

can’t wait to do something

I can’t wait to tell Gloria the good news.

Laura could hardly wait to see the twins again.

somebody can’t wait/can hardly wait for

I can’t wait for the summer.

b) used humorously to say that something seems likely to be very boring:

A lecture on transformational grammar? I can hardly wait!

5 . something can/can’t wait spoken if something can wait, it is not very urgent. If something can’t wait, it is very urgent:

Go home. The report can wait till tomorrow.

6 . wait and see spoken used to say that someone should be patient because they will find out about something later:

‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘Wait and see.’

We will just have to wait and see how things develop.

7 . wait until/till ... spoken used when you are excited about telling or showing someone something:

Wait till you see Gaby’s new house!

8 . be waiting (for somebody) if something is waiting for you, it is ready for you to use, collect etc:

There’ll be a rental car waiting for you at the airport.

Come round at eight and I’ll have dinner waiting.

9 . wait your turn to stay calm until it is your turn to do something, instead of trying to move ahead of other people:

I’ve got two hands and there are three of you. So you’ll have to wait your turn!

10 . something is (well) worth waiting for spoken used to say that something is very good, even though it takes a long time to come:

Their new album was worth waiting for.

11 . (just) you wait spoken

a) British English used to warn or threaten someone:

I’ll get you back for what you’ve done, just you wait.

b) used to tell someone you are sure something will happen:

It’ll be a huge success. Just you wait.

12 . what are you waiting for? spoken used to tell someone to do something immediately:

Well, what are you waiting for? Go and apologize.

13 . what are we waiting for? spoken used to say in a cheerful way that you think everyone should start doing something immediately:

What are we waiting for? Let’s go eat.

14 . wait for it British English spoken

a) used just before you tell someone something that is funny or surprising:

His name was – wait for it – Mr Bacon.

b) used to tell someone not to do something until the correct time because they seem very impatient to do it now

15 . be waiting in the wings to be ready to do something if it is necessary or if a suitable time comes:

Other firms are waiting in the wings, ready to step in and make an offer should the current deal fall through.

16 . wait tables American English to work in a restaurant serving food and drink to people at their tables:

I spent the summer waiting tables.

17 . (play) a/the waiting game if you play a waiting game, you try to gain an advantage for yourself in a particular situation by deliberately doing nothing until you have seen what other people do

• • •


■ adverbs

▪ wait two hours/ten minutes etc

William waited an hour for his sister to arrive.

▪ wait long (=wait a long time – used especially in questions or negative sentences)

She did not have to wait long for a train.

▪ wait ages informal especially British English (=wait a long time)

I had to wait ages for a bus.

▪ patiently

They patiently waited for the rain to stop.

▪ impatiently

He waited impatiently for a reply.

▪ anxiously

All his friends were waiting anxiously for their exam results.

▪ wait expectantly (=hoping that something good or exciting will happen soon)

He took out his camera and waited expectantly.

■ phrases

▪ keep somebody waiting

He kept us waiting for half an hour.

▪ wait with bated breath (=while feeling very anxious or excited)

She waited with bated breath to see what he would say.

▪ wait in vain (=wait for something that never happens)

They waited in vain for their son to come home.

• • •


▪ wait to stay somewhere or not do something until something else happens, someone arrives etc:

I’ll wait here while you call him.


He said he was waiting for a friend.

▪ hang around ( also hang about British English ) informal to wait in a place not doing anything, especially so that you are wasting time:

They kept us hanging around for hours at the hospital.

▪ hold on/hang on to wait because you are hoping that something will happen:

The captain decided it was best to hold on and wait for the other ship to arrive.


We hung on until the very last moment.

▪ can you hold on/hang on? spoken used when telling someone to wait:

Can you hang on a minute? I just want to finish this email.

▪ stand by/be on standby to wait and be ready to do something if needed – used especially about soldiers, police, medical teams etc:

The army are standing by.


Emergency services were on standby after someone called to say there was a bomb in the city centre.

▪ await formal to wait for something – used about something that you know will happen or arrive:

I will await your reply (=in a formal letter) .


In February, nearly 200,000 prisoners were awaiting trial.


The soldiers awaited the order to advance.

wait around ( also wait about British English ) phrasal verb

to stay in the same place and do nothing while you are waiting for something to happen, someone to arrive etc:

Movie-making involves acting for ten minutes and then waiting around for two hours.

We’d better be going. We can’t wait about like this any longer.

wait behind phrasal verb British English

to stay somewhere after other people have left:

She waited behind to help Debbie with the clearing up.

wait in phrasal verb British English

to stay at home and wait there for someone to arrive:

I have to wait in for the repair man.

wait on somebody/something phrasal verb

1 . to serve food and drink to someone at their table, especially in a restaurant

2 . to wait for a particular event, piece of information etc, especially before doing something or making a decision:

We’re waiting on the blood test results.

3 . wait on somebody hand and foot to do everything for someone while they do nothing – used to show disapproval:

His wife waits on him hand and foot.

wait something ↔ out phrasal verb

if you wait out an event, period, or time, especially an unpleasant one, you wait for it to finish:

Let’s find a place where we can wait out the storm.

wait up phrasal verb

1 . to wait for someone to return before you go to bed

wait up for

Don’t wait up for me; I may be late.

2 . Wait up! American English used to tell someone to stop, so that you can talk to them or go with them:

‘Wait up!’ he called.

II. wait 2 BrE AmE noun [singular]

a period of time in which you wait for something to happen, someone to arrive etc

wait for

The average wait for an appointment at the clinic was eight weeks.

long/three-hour/two-week etc wait

There was an hour wait before the next train departed.

They’ll have a long wait.

⇨ lie in wait at ↑ lie 1 (8)

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.