Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Dilatory

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is dilatory. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Dilatory means “tending or intended to cause delay.” It can also mean “tending to procrastinate or be late.” 

// The councilor’s seemingly endless motions to adjourn were clearly dilatory.

// She tends to be dilatory in answering letters.

DILATORY in Context

“Members of Congress from both parties are raising tough questions about this dilatory pace.” — William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal, 24 May 2022

Did You Know?

“Slow down, you move too fast / You got to make the morning last / Just kicking down the cobblestones / Looking for fun and feelin’…” dilatory? We can’t say Paul Simon was wrong to choose groovy to end that verse of “The 59th Street Bridge Song” but dilatory would have also made sense. You see, if procrastination is your style, dilatory is the word for you. It’s been describing things that cause delay since at least the 15th century, and its ancestors were hanging around with similar meanings long before that. The word’s source is dilatus, a form of the multifaceted Latin verb differre, meaning “to carry away in varying directions, spread abroad, postpone, delay, be unlike or distinct.” That verb is also an ancestor of the words different, differ, and defer—a fact we think is pretty groovy.

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