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").


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  • 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