wait around: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘wait around’ mean?

The idiom "wait around" means to stay in a place, usually without a specific purpose, while expecting something to happen or someone to arrive.

Idiom Explorer

Decoding Lingering

The idiom "wait around" is used in American English and has several meanings, all of which convey a sense of waiting for something to happen or waiting for someone.

One of the meanings of "wait around" is to hang around with no clear purpose or reason, often implying a sense of wasting time or being idle. This use of the idiom suggests a lack of productivity or the absence of any specific goal while waiting. For example, someone might say, "I'm tired of waiting around for something to happen, I need to take action."

Another way "wait around" is used is to describe waiting for someone or something to arrive or happen, especially when the waiting involves anticipation or uncertainty. In this context, the idiom suggests a more active waiting, where there is an expectation or hope that the outcome will be positive. For instance, one might say, "I'll wait around for the delivery to arrive before leaving the house."

The idiom "hang around" is closely related to "wait around" and carries a similar meaning. To "hang around" also implies waiting with no clear purpose, often in a casual or relaxed manner. It can be used interchangeably with "wait around" to convey the idea of idleness or aimless waiting. For example, someone might say, "I enjoy just hanging around and watching the world go by."

A related idiom is "wait out," which means to wait until a certain period of time has passed or until a particular situation has resolved itself. This idiom is often used when waiting for a difficult or challenging situation to come to an end. For instance, someone might say, "We'll have to wait out the storm before we can continue our hike."

Please don't wait around, it's not necessary.

The phrase "sit tight" is another related idiom that conveys the idea of waiting patiently and staying in one place. It suggests a sense of stillness and the need to remain calm and composed while waiting. For example, someone might say, "Just sit tight, the doctor will see you shortly."

The phrase "wait around" can also be used to express a lack of control over the situation or a feeling of being at someone else's mercy. It signifies a passive waiting, where the person waiting has little agency or influence over the outcome. An example of this usage is, "I had to wait around for hours until they finally called me for the interview."

The idiom "wait out" is also closely related to "wait around" in this context. To "wait out" a situation means to endure or stay with it until it is over, often when the waiting involves a difficult or challenging circumstance. It implies a sense of perseverance and resolve to wait until the desired outcome is achieved. For example, someone might say, "We'll wait out the traffic and leave once it clears."

Furthermore, "wait around" can sometimes imply a sense of impatience, suggesting that the waiting has been going on for too long or is becoming tedious. It conveys a level of frustration or annoyance with the waiting process. An example of this is, "I'm not going to wait around forever, I have other things to do."

Similarly, the idiom "sit tight" can also be used to express impatience in the waiting process. It implies the need to remain patient and composed despite the desire to take action or move forward. For instance, someone might say, "I know you're eager, but you'll have to sit tight until we receive further instructions."

The etymology of the idiom "wait around" is derived from the combination of the words "wait" and "around," with each word retaining its individual meaning within the phrase. The word "wait" originates from the Old North French word "waitier," meaning to watch or attend. The word "around" comes from the Middle English word "arounde," which means on all sides or in a circular path. The blending of these two words creates the meaning of waiting with an element of being present in the surrounding environment.

The idiom "wait around" encompasses several meanings related to waiting, including waiting with no clear purpose, waiting for someone or something, waiting with a lack of control, and waiting with impatience. The phrase originates from the combination of the individual words' meanings and has become a commonly used expression in American English. While the idiom captures the essence of waiting, it leaves room for interpretation and further exploration of the various emotions and circumstances associated with waiting.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *wait around* can be used in a sentence:

  • I don't have time to wait around for you all day. Hurry up!
  • She got tired of waiting around for her big break, so she decided to start her own business.
  • Don't just wait around for opportunities to come to you. Take initiative and create your own success.

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