wait on


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.
the time between two acts, scenes, or the like.
waits, (formerly) a band of musicians employed by a city or town to play music in parades, for official functions, etc.
a street musician, especially a singer.
one of a band of carolers.
a piece sung by carolers, especially a Christmas carol.
Obsolete. a watchman.
Verb phrases
wait on,
to perform the duties of an attendant or servant for.
to supply the wants of a person, as serving a meal or serving a customer in a store.
to call upon or visit (a person, especially a superior): to wait on Her Majesty at the palace.
Falconry. (of a hawk) to soar over ground until prey appears.
Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. to wait for (a person); await.
Also, wait upon. to await (an event).
wait up,
to postpone going to bed to await someone's arrival.
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 ).

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

wait, weight.

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.

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.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
wait (weɪt)
vb (when intr, often foll by for, until, or to) (when intr, usually foll by for)
1.  to stay in one place or remain inactive in expectation (of something); hold oneself in readiness (for something)
2.  to delay temporarily or be temporarily delayed: that work can wait
3.  (of things) to be in store (for a person): success waits for you in your new job
4.  (intr) to act as a waiter or waitress
5.  the act or an instance of waiting
6.  a period of waiting
7.  rare (plural) a band of musicians who go around the streets, esp at Christmas, singing and playing carols
8.  an interlude or interval between two acts or scenes in a play, etc
9.  lie in wait to prepare an ambush (for someone)
[C12: from Old French waitier; related to Old High German wahtēn to wake1]

wait on
1.  to serve at the table of
2.  to act as an attendant or servant to
3.  archaic to visit
4.  (Austral), (NZ) stop! hold on!

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1200, "to watch with hostile intent, lie in wait for," from O.N.Fr. waitier "to watch" (Fr. guetter), from Frank. *wahton (cf. Du. wacht "a watching," O.H.G. wahten, Ger. wachten "to watch, to guard;" O.H.G. wahhon "to watch, be awake," O.E. wacian "to be awake;" see
wake (v.)). General sense of "remain in some place" is from 1375; meaning "serve as an attendant at a table" is from 1568. The noun is first attested c.1300. To wait (something) out "endure a period of waiting" is recorded from 1909, originally Amer.Eng., in ref. to baseball batters trying to draw a base on balls. Waiting game is recorded from 1890. Waiting room is attested from 1683. 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
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

wait on

  1. Also, wait upon. Serve, minister to, especially for personal needs or in a store or restaurant. For example, Guests at the Inn should not expect to be waited onthey can make their own beds and get their own breakfast. [Early 1500s]

  2. Make a formal call on, as in They waited on the ambassador. [c. 1500]

  3. Also, wait upon. Await, remain in readiness for, as in We're waiting on their decision to close the school. This usage, a synonym of , dates from the late 1600s but in the mid-1800s began to be criticized by many authorities. However, by the late 1900s it had come into increasingly wider use and is again largely accepted.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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