from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To lie in wait for and attack from ambush. synonym: ambush.
  • transitive verb To approach and speak to (a person on the way to a destination or in the middle of an activity).
  • transitive verb To interrupt the course or progress of.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To lie in wait for in the way, in order to lay hold of for some purpose; particularly, to lie in wait for with the view of accosting, seizing, assaulting, robbing, or slaying; take in ambush: as, to waylay a traveler.
  • To beset with ambushes or ambuscades; ambuscade.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To lie in wait for; to meet or encounter in the way; especially, to watch for the passing of, with a view to seize, rob, or slay; to beset in ambush.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To lie in wait for and attack from ambush.
  • verb transitive To accost or intercept unexpectedly.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb wait in hiding to attack


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

way +‎ lay likely from Middle Dutch wegelagen ("besetting of ways, lying in wait with evil or hostile intent along public ways").



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I usually think of this verb in its passive participle form: I haven't finished the work I promised because I was waylaid by another impatient client with an even more pressing deadline.

    I like the word because it conjures up such a vivid image of being attacked while one is trying to get somewhere.

    December 1, 2007

  • Your brother having been assured that you are not married, has taken a resolution to find you out, way-lay you and carry you off.

    Anna Howe to Clarissa Harlowe, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

    December 10, 2007

  • Is it just me, or does this word have a Chinese feel to it?

    December 10, 2007

  • Ah, Dim-sim Syndrome.

    December 10, 2007

  • His voice waylays me, spells a trance

    from "Pursuit," by Sylvia Plath

    April 8, 2008

  • "The women, who hold wicker baskets filled with flowers and incense, are out to waylay tourists and to entice them into buying the blooms and scents."

    - Jacob Heilbrunn, 'Mao More Than Ever', New Republic, 21 April 1997.

    October 15, 2008