1 [stey]
verb (used without object), stayed or staid, staying.
to spend some time in a place, in a situation, with a person or group, etc.: He stayed in the army for ten years.
to continue to be as specified, as to condition or state: to stay clean.
to hold out or endure, as in a contest or task (followed by with or at ): Please stay with the project as long as you can.
to keep up, as with a competitor (followed by with ).
Poker. to continue in a hand by matching an ante, bet, or raise.
to stop or halt.
to pause or wait, as for a moment, before proceeding or continuing; linger or tarry.
Archaic. to cease or desist.
Archaic. to stand firm.
verb (used with object), stayed or staid, staying.
to stop or halt.
to hold back, detain, or restrain, as from going further.
to suspend or delay (actions, proceedings, etc.).
to appease or satisfy temporarily the cravings of (the stomach, appetite, etc.).
to remain through or during (a period of time): We stayed two days in San Francisco.
to remain to the end of; remain beyond (usually followed by out ).
Archaic. to await.
the act of stopping or being stopped.
a stop, halt, or pause; a standstill.
a sojourn or temporary residence: a week's stay in Miami.
Law. a stoppage or arrest of action; suspension of a judicial proceeding: The governor granted a stay of execution.
Informal. staying power; endurance.
stay the course, to persevere; endure to completion.

1400–50; late Middle English staien < Anglo-French estaier, Old French estai-, stem of ester < Latin stāre to stand Unabridged


2 [stey]
something used to support or steady a thing; prop; brace.
a flat strip of steel, plastic, etc., used especially for stiffening corsets, collars, etc.
a long rod running between opposite walls, heads or sides of a furnace, boiler, tank, or the like, to strengthen them against internal pressures.
stays, Chiefly British. a corset.
verb (used with object), stayed, staying.
to support, prop, or hold up (sometimes followed by up ).
to sustain or strengthen mentally or spiritually.
to rest on (something, as a foundation or base) for support.
to cause something to become fixed or to rest on (a support, foundation, base, etc.)

1505–15; apparently same as stay3 (compare Old French estayer to hold in place, support, perhaps derivative of Middle English steye stay3)


3 [stey] Chiefly Nautical.
any of various strong ropes or wires for steadying masts, funnels, etc.
verb (used with object), stayed, staying.
to support or secure with a stay or stays: to stay a mast.
to put (a ship) on the other tack.
verb (used without object), stayed, staying.
(of a ship) to change to the other tack.
in stays, (of a fore-and-aft-rigged vessel) heading into the wind with sails shaking, as in coming about.

before 1150; Middle English stey(e), Old English stæg; cognate with German Stag Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
stay1 (steɪ)
vb (often foll by at) (; usually foll by with)
1.  (intr) to continue or remain in a certain place, position, etc: to stay outside
2.  (copula) to continue to be; remain: to stay awake
3.  to reside temporarily, esp as a guest: to stay at a hotel
4.  (tr) to remain for a specified period: to stay the weekend
5.  (Scot), (South African) (intr) to reside permanently or habitually; live
6.  archaic to stop or cause to stop
7.  (intr) to wait, pause, or tarry
8.  (tr) to delay or hinder
9.  (tr)
 a.  to discontinue or suspend (a judicial proceeding)
 b.  to hold in abeyance or restrain from enforcing (an order, decree, etc)
10.  to endure (something testing or difficult, such as a race): a horse that stays the course
11.  to keep pace (with a competitor in a race, etc)
12.  (intr) poker to raise one's stakes enough to stay in a round
13.  (tr) to hold back or restrain: to stay one's anger
14.  (tr) to satisfy or appease (an appetite, etc) temporarily
15.  archaic (tr) to quell or suppress
16.  archaic (intr) to stand firm
17.  stay put See put
18.  the act of staying or sojourning in a place or the period during which one stays
19.  the act of stopping or restraining or state of being stopped, etc
20.  the suspension of a judicial proceeding, etc: stay of execution
[C15 staien, from Anglo-French estaier, to stay, from Old French ester to stay, from Latin stāre to stand]

stay2 (steɪ)
1.  anything that supports or steadies, such as a prop or buttress
2.  a thin strip of metal, plastic, bone, etc, used to stiffen corsets, etc
vb (foll by on or upon)
3.  (often foll by up) to prop or hold
4.  (often foll by up) to comfort or sustain
5.  to cause to rely or depend
[C16: from Old French estaye, of Germanic origin; compare stay³]

stay3 (steɪ)
stays See also stays a rope, cable, or chain, usually one of a set, used for bracing uprights, such as masts, funnels, flagpoles, chimneys, etc; guy
[Old English stæg; related to Old Norse stag, Middle Low German stach, Norwegian stagle wooden post]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"to remain," 1440, from M.Fr. estai-, stem of ester "to stay or stand," from O.Fr., from L. stare "to stand" (cf. It. stare, Sp. estar "to stand, to be"), from PIE base *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Originally "come to a halt;" sense of "remain" is first recorded 1575. Noun
senses of "appliance for stopping," "period of remaining in a place," and (judicial) "suspension of proceeding" all developed 1525-1550. Stay-at-home (adj.) is from 1806. Stay put is first recorded 1843, Amer.Eng. Phrase stay the course is originally (1885) in ref. to horses holding out till the end of a race.

"support, prop, brace," c.1515, from M.Fr. estaie "piece of wood used as a support," perhaps from Frank. *staka "support," from P.Gmc. *stagaz (cf. M.Du. stake "stick," O.E. steli "steel" stæg "rope used to support a mast"), from PIE *stak- (see stay (n.2)). If not, then
from the root of stay (v.). Stays "laced underbodice" is attested from 1608.

"strong rope which supports a ship's mast," from O.E. stæg, from P.Gmc. *stagan (cf. Du. stag, Low Ger. stach, Ger. Stag, O.N. stag), from PIE *stak-, ult. an extended form of base *sta- "to stand" (see stet). The verb meaning "secure or steady with stays" is first recorded 1627.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with stay, also see here to stay; (stay) in touch; (stay on one's) right side; should have stood (stayed) in bed; stick (stay) with.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Come for a visit and you may find yourself wanting to stay.
Share your suggestions for where to stay on a budget.
Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers.
The sea dragon's disguise helps it stay off another fish's menu.
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