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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 one masthead 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 (c.1564–1616)
      Your ships are stay'd at Venice.
    • John Evelyn (1620-1706)
      This business staid me in London almost a week.
    • John Locke (1632-1705)
      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.
    • John Dryden (1631-1700)
      Sallows and reeds [] for vineyards useful found / To stay thy vines.
  3. (transitive) To restrain; withhold; check; stop.
    • Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
      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.
    • William Shakespeare (c.1564–1616)
      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.
  9. (intransitive) To stop; come to a stand or standstill.
  10. (intransitive) To come to an end; cease.
    That day the storm stayed.
  11. (intransitive) To dwell; linger; tarry; wait.
    • John Dryden (1631-1700)
      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.
    We stayed in Hawaii for a week.  I can only stay for an hour.
    • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)
      She would command the hasty sun to stay.
    • John Dryden (1631-1700)
      Stay, I command you; stay and hear me first.
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
      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.
  15. (intransitive) To wait; rest in patience or expectation.
    • William Shakespeare (c.1564–1616)
      I'll tell thee all my whole device / When I am in my coach, which stays for us.
    • John Locke (1632-1705)
      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.
    Wear gloves so your hands stay warm.
    • John Dryden (1631-1700)
      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.
  18. To support from sinking; to sustain with strength; to satisfy in part or for the time.
    • Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
      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.
  20. To cause to cease; to put an end to.
  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.
    • John Milton
      My only strength and stay.
    • Addison
      Trees serve as so many stays for their vines.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      Lord Liverpool is the single stay of this ministry.
    • 1831, Peter Leicester, Arthur of Britanny (page 18)
      Even when the deceptive mask was torn away, and the broken-hearted parent, beholding the accursed fact, that his darling son, the fancied stay of his declining age, was enlisted against him in his brother's horrible revolt, cursed them both and died, not even then did one compunctuous visiting touch his callous heart.
  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. (archaic) A standstill; a state of rest; entire cessation of motion or progress.
    stand at a stay
  6. A postponement, especially of an execution or other punishment.
    The governor granted a stay of execution.
  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.
    • 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.
  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.
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. (Britain dialectal) Steep; ascending.
  2. (Britain dialectal) (of a roof) Steeply pitched.
  3. (Britain dialectal) Difficult to negotiate; not easy to access; sheer.
  4. (Britain dialectal) Stiff; upright; unbending; reserved; haughty; proud.


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

  1. (Britain dialectal) Steeply.


Most common English words before 1923: ancient · parts · getting · #675: stay · months · grew · boys