General English

  • verb to stay where you are, and not do anything until something happens or someone comes


  • Originally a medieval nightwatchman whose duty was to soundthe hours on various musical instruments. In Elizabethan times groupsof four to nine waits would serve a town as resident musicians muchin the manner of a modern town band; alternatively, they were sometimesemployed by a nobleman, in which case they wore his livery. Theirconnection with the theater began when, to earn extra money, theyhired themselves out to provide music for plays. By the time nightwatchmenwere replaced by organized police forces in the early 19th centurythe waits' main function was to serenade householders and performstreet music at Christmas time.

Origin & History of “wait”

Wait originally meant ‘look, spy’. But the notion of remaining in hiding, keeping a watch on one’s enemies’ movements led via the sense ‘remain, stay (in expectation)’ to, in the 17th century, ‘defer action’. The word was borrowed from Old Northern French waitier, which was itself a loanword from prehistoric Germanic *wakhtan (ultimate source also of English waft). this in turn was formed from the base *wak-, which also produced English wake, watch, etc. The sense ‘serve food at table’ emerged in the 16th century from an earlier ‘attend on’.