Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French waiter, guaiter to watch over, await, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch, Old English wæccan to watch — more at wake
Date: 14th century
1. to stay in place in expectation of ; await <waited the result of the advertisement — W. M. Thackeray> <wait your turn> 2. to delay serving (a meal) 3. to serve as waiter for <wait tables> intransitive verb 1. a. to remain stationary in readiness or expectation <wait for a train> b. to pause for another to catch up — usually used with up 2. a. to look forward expectantly <just waiting to see his rival lose> b. to hold back expectantly <waiting for a chance to strike> 3. to serve at meals — usually used in such phrases as wait on tables or wait on table 4. a. to be ready and available <slippers waiting by the bed> b. to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized <the chores can wait> Usage: American dialectologists have evidence showing wait on (sense 3) to be more a Southern than a Northern form in speech. Handbook writers universally denigrate wait on and prescribe wait for in writing. Our evidence from printed sources does not show a regional preference; it does show that the handbooks' advice is not based on current usage <settlement of the big problems still waited on Russia — Time> <I couldn't make out…whether Harper was waiting on me for approval — E. B. White> <the staggering bill that waited on them at the white commissary downtown — Maya Angelou>. One reason for the continuing use of wait on may lie in its being able to suggest protracted or irritating waits better than wait for <for two days I've been waiting on weather — Charles A. Lindbergh> <the boredom of black Africans sitting there, waiting on the whims of a colonial bureaucracy — Vincent Canby> <doesn't care to sit around waiting on a House that's virtually paralyzed — Glenn A. Briere>. Wait on is less common than wait for, but if it seems natural, there is no reason to avoid it. II. noun Etymology: Middle English waite watchman, observation, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German wahta watch Date: 14th century 1. a. a hidden or concealed position — used chiefly in the expression lie in wait b. a state or attitude of watchfulness and expectancy <anchored in wait for early morning fishing — Fred Zimmer> 2. a. one of a band of public musicians in England employed to play for processions or public entertainments b. (1) one of a group who serenade for gratuities especially at the Christmas season (2) a piece of music by such a group 3. an act or period of waiting <a long wait in line>
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.