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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *stay, from Old English stæġ (stay, a rope supporting a mast), from Proto-Germanic *stagą (stay, rope), from Proto-Indo-European *stek-, *stāk- (stand, pole), from Proto-Indo-European *stā- (to stand). Cognate with Dutch stag (stay), German Stag (stay), Swedish stag (stay), Icelandic stag (stay).


stay (plural stays)

  1. (nautical) A strong rope supporting a mast, and leading from the head of one mast down to some other, or other part of the vessel.
  2. A guy, rope, or wire supporting or stabilizing a platform, such as a bridge, a pole, such as a tentpole, the mast of a derrick, or other structural element.
    The engineer insisted on using stays for the scaffolding.
  3. (chain-cable) The transverse piece in a link.
Derived terms[edit]


stay (third-person singular simple present stays, present participle staying, simple past and past participle stayed)

  1. (transitive, nautical) To incline forward, aft, or to one side by means of stays.
    stay a mast
  2. (transitive, nautical) To tack; put on the other tack.
    to stay ship
  3. (intransitive, nautical) To change; tack; go about; be in stays, as a ship.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English steyen, staien, from Old French estayer, estaier (to fix, prop up, support, stay), from estaye, estaie (a prop, stay), from Middle Dutch staeye (a prop, stay), a contracted form of staede, stade ("a prop, stay, help, aid"; compare Middle Dutch staeyen, staeden (to make firm, stay, support, hold still, stabilise)), from Old Dutch *stad (a site, place, location, standing), from Proto-Germanic *stadiz (a standing, place), from Proto-Indo-European *stā- (to stand). Influenced by Old English stæġ ("a stay, rope"; see above). Cognate with Old English stede, stæde (a place, spot, locality, fixed position, station, site, standing, status, position of a moving body, stopping, standing still, stability, fixity, firmness, steadfastness), Swedish stödja (to prop, support, brace, hold up, bolster), Icelandic stöðug (continuous, stable). More at stead, steady.

Sense of "remain, continue" may be due to later influence from Old French ester, esteir (to stand, be, continue, remain), from Latin stāre (stand), from the same Proto-Indo-European root above; however, derivation from this root is untenable based on linguistic and historical grounds[1].

An alternative etymology derives Old French estaye, estaie, from Old Frankish *staka (stake, post), from Proto-Germanic *stakô (stake, bar, stick, pole), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (rod, pole, stick), making it cognate with Old English staca (pin, stake), Old English stician (to stick, be placed, lie, remain fixed). Cognate with Albanian shtagë (a long stick, a pole). More at stake, stick.


stay (third-person singular simple present stays, present participle staying, simple past and past participle stayed)

  1. (transitive) To prop; support; sustain; hold up; steady.
  2. (transitive) To stop; detain; keep back; delay; hinder.
    • William Shakespeare
      Your ships are stay'd at Venice.
    • Evelyn
      This business staid me in London almost a week.
    • John Locke
      I was willing to stay my reader on an argument that appeared to me new.
    • Bible, Exodus xvii. 12
      Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side.
    • Dryden
      Sallows and reeds [] for vineyards useful found / To stay thy vines.
  3. (transitive) To restrain; withhold; check; stop.
    • Hooker
      all that may stay their minds from thinking that true which they heartily wish were false
  4. (transitive) To put off; defer; postpone; delay; keep back.
    The governor stayed the execution until the appeal could be heard.
  5. (transitive) To hold the attention of.
  6. (transitive) To bear up under; to endure; to hold out against; to resist.
    • Shakespeare
      She will not stay the siege of loving terms, / Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes.
  7. (transitive) To wait for; await.
  8. (intransitive) To rest; depend; rely.
    • Isaiah 30:12, King James Bible
      Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon.
    • Shakespeare
      I stay here on my bond.
  9. (intransitive) To stop; come to a stand or standstill.
  10. (intransitive) To come to an end; cease.
    That day the storm stayed.
    • Shakespeare
      Here my commission stays.
  11. (intransitive) To dwell; linger; tarry; wait.
    • Dryden
      I must stay a little on one action.
  12. (intransitive) To make a stand; stand.
  13. (intransitive) To hold out, as in a race or contest; last or persevere to the end.
    That horse stays well.
  14. (intransitive) To remain in a particular place, especially for an indefinite time; sojourn; abide.
    • Spenser
      She would command the hasty sun to stay.
    • Dryden
      Stay, I command you; stay and hear me first.
    • Longfellow
      I stay a little longer, as one stays / To cover up the embers that still burn.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 5, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      “Well,” I says, “I cal'late a body could get used to Tophet if he stayed there long enough.” ¶ She flared up; the least mite of a slam at Doctor Wool was enough to set her going.
    We stayed in Hawaii for a week.   I can only stay for an hour.
  15. (intransitive) To wait; rest in patience or expectation.
    • Shakespeare
      I'll tell thee all my whole device / When I am in my coach, which stays for us.
    • John Locke
      The father cannot stay any longer for the fortune.
  16. (intransitive, used with on or upon) To wait as an attendant; give ceremonious or submissive attendance.
  17. (intransitive) To continue to have a particular quality.
    • Dryden
      The flames augment, and stay / At their full height, then languish to decay.
    • 2013 June 21, Oliver Burkeman, “The tao of tech”, The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 2, page 27: 
      The dirty secret of the internet is that all this distraction and interruption is immensely profitable. Web companies like to boast about […], or offering services that let you "stay up to date with what your friends are doing", [] and so on. But the real way to build a successful online business is to be better than your rivals at undermining people's control of their own attention.
    Wear gloves so your hands stay warm.
  18. To support from sinking; to sustain with strength; to satisfy in part or for the time.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      He has devoured a whole loaf of bread and butter, and it has not staid his stomach for a minute.
  19. (obsolete) To remain for the purpose of; to wait for.
    • Shakespeare
      I stay dinner there.
  20. To cause to cease; to put an end to.
    • Shakespeare
      Stay your strife.
    • Emerson
      For flattering planets seemed to say / This child should ills of ages stay.
  21. To fasten or secure with stays.
    to stay a flat sheet in a steam boiler
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitney, Century Dictionary and Encyclopedia, stay.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English *staye, from Old French estaye, estaie (a prop, a stay), from Middle Dutch staeye (a prop, stay), a contracted form of staede, stade ("a prop, stay, help, aid"; compare Middle Dutch staeyen, staeden (to make firm, stay, support, hold still, stabilise)), from Old Dutch *stad (a site, place, location, standing), from Proto-Germanic *stadiz (a standing, place), from Proto-Indo-European *stā- (to stand). See above.


stay (plural stays)

  1. A prop; a support.
    • Milton
      My only strength and stay.
    • Addison
      Trees serve as so many stays for their vines.
    • Coleridge
      Lord Liverpool is the single stay of this ministry.
  2. (archaic) A fastening for a garment; a hook; a clasp; anything to hang another thing on.
  3. That which holds or restrains; obstacle; check; hindrance; restraint.
  4. A stop; a halt; a break or cessation of action, motion, or progress.
    • Milton
      Made of sphere metal, never to decay / Until his revolution was at stay.
    • Hayward
      Affairs of state seemed rather to stand at a stay.
  5. A postponement, especially of an execution or other punishment.
    The governor granted a stay of execution.
  6. (archaic) A standstill; a state of rest; entire cessation of motion or progress.
    stand at a stay
  7. A fixed state; fixedness; stability; permanence.
  8. Continuance or a period of time spent in a place; abode for an indefinite time; sojourn.
    I hope you enjoyed your stay in Hawaii.
  9. (nautical) A station or fixed anchorage for vessels.
  10. Restraint of passion; prudence; moderation; caution; steadiness; sobriety.
  11. A piece of stiff material, such as plastic or whalebone, used to stiffen a piece of clothing.
    Where are the stays for my collar?
  12. (obsolete) Hindrance; let; check.
    • Robynson (More's Utopia)
      They were able to read good authors without any stay, if the book were not false.
  13. Restraint of passion; moderation; caution; steadiness; sobriety.
    • Herbert
      Not grudging that thy lust hath bounds and stays.
    • Francis Bacon
      The wisdom, stay, and moderation of the king.
    • Philips
      With prudent stay he long deferred / The rough contention.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 4[edit]

From Middle English *steȝe, from Old English *stǣġe, an apocopated variant of Old English stǣġel (steep, abrupt), from Proto-Germanic *staigilaz (climbing, ascending, sloping, steep), see sty.

Alternative forms[edit]


stay (comparative stayer or more stay, superlative stayest or most stay)

  1. (UK dialectal) Steep; ascending.
  2. (UK dialectal) (of a roof) Steeply pitched.
  3. (UK dialectal) Difficult to negotiate; not easy to access; sheer.
  4. (UK dialectal) Stiff; upright; unbending; reserved; haughty; proud.


stay (comparative staylier or more stay, superlative stayliest or most stay)

  1. (UK dialectal) Steeply.