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From Anglo-Norman and Old French respit (rest), from Latin respectus. Doublet of respect.



respite (countable and uncountable, plural respites)

  1. A brief interval of rest or relief.
    • c. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene ii]:
      I crave but four day's respite.
    • 1668, John Denham, “The Passion of Dido for Æneas”, in Poems and Translations with the Sophy[1], page 136:
      Some pause and respite only I require.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter X, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      It was a joy to snatch some brief respite, and find himself in the rectory drawing–room. Listening here was as pleasant as talking; just to watch was pleasant. The young priests who lived here wore cassocks and birettas; their faces were fine and mild, yet really strong, like the rector's face; and in their intercourse with him and his wife they seemed to be brothers.
    • 2013 May 23, Sarah Lyall, “British Leader's Liberal Turn Sets Off a Rebellion in His Party”, in New York Times[2], retrieved 29 May 2013:
      Mr. Cameron had a respite Thursday from the negative chatter swirling around him when he appeared outside 10 Downing Street to denounce the murder a day before of a British soldier on a London street.
    • 2019 February 27, Drachinifel, 17:27 from the start, in The Battle of Samar - Odds? What are those?[3], archived from the original on 3 November 2022:
      The American escort carriers reach the first in a series of rain squalls, and Japanese fire drops off significantly, as their optical systems are unable to see through the rain. At this point in time, almost any other major navy would simply have used their radar to keep spotting and firing, as Duke of York had done to Scharnhorst almost a year ago and as the battleships of the Seventh Fleet had done to the Yamashiro mere hours earlier. But, since only one ship in the Center Force has gunnery radar, the American ships gain some respite.
  2. (law) A reprieve, especially from a sentence of death.
    • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur Book XX, Chapter vii, leaf 404v:
      Thenne spake sir gawayn and sayd my lord Arthur I wold counceylle yow not to be ouer hasty but that ye wold putte it in respyte this Iugement of my lady the quene for many causes.
      "Then spake Sir Gawaine, and said: My lord Arthur, I would counsel you not to be over-hasty, but that ye would put it in respite, this judgment of my lady the queen, for many causes."
  3. (law) The delay of appearance at court granted to a jury beyond the proper term.
  4. (musical theatre) A short period of spoken dialogue in an otherwise sung-through musical.


Derived terms[edit]



respite (third-person singular simple present respites, present participle respiting, simple past and past participle respited)

  1. (transitive) To delay or postpone (an event).
  2. (transitive) To allow (a person) extra time to fulfil some obligation.