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See also: Tardy



From an earlier tardive, from French tardif, from Late Latin tardīvus, from Latin tardus (slow”, “sluggish), of obscure origin.



tardy (comparative tardier, superlative tardiest)

  1. Late; overdue or delayed.
    He yawned, then raised a tardy hand over his mouth.
    • c. 1596–1599 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iii]:
      When everything is ended, then you come. / These tardy tricks of yours will, on my life, / One time or other break some gallows’ back.
    • 1795, Isaac D’Israeli, chapter 9, in An Essay on the Manners and Genius of the Literary Character[1], London: T. Cadell Jr. and W. Davies, page 122:
      Men of genius anticipate their contemporaries, and know they are such, long before the tardy consent of the public.
    • 1914, Saki, “The Stake”, in Beasts and Super-Beasts[2], London: John Lane, pages 202–203:
      As a matter of fact, the luncheon fare, when it made its tardy appearance, was distinctly unworthy of the reputation which the justly-treasured cook had built up for herself.
    • 1963, James Baldwin, “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind”, in The Fire Next Time[3], New York: Dial, page 87:
      And the Black Muslims, along with many people who are not Muslims, no longer wish for a recognition so grudging and (should it ever be achieved) so tardy.
  2. Moving with a slow pace or motion; not swift.
    • 1595 December 9 (first known performance), William Shakespeare, “The life and death of King Richard the Second”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene i]:
      [] fashions in proud Italy, / Whose manners still our tardy apish nation / Limps after in base imitation.
    • 1638, George Sandys, “(please specify the part or chapter)”, in A Paraphrase upon the Divine Poems, London: [] Iohn Legatt, →OCLC:
      Nor should their Age by Yeares be told: / Whose Souls, more swift then Motion, clime; / And check the tardy Flight of Time.
    • 1709, Mat[thew] Prior, “Carmen Seculare, For the Year 1700. To the King”, in Poems on Several Occasions, 2nd edition, London: [] Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC, page 151:
      In various Views she tries her constant Theme; / Finds him, in Councils, and in Arms, the same: / When certain to o’ercome, inclin’d to save; / Tardy to Vengeance; and with Mercy brave.
    • 1838 March – 1839 October, Charles Dickens, “Chronicles the further Proceedings of the Nickleby Family, and the Sequel of the Adventure of the Gentleman in the Small-clothes”, in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1839, →OCLC:
      [] a disease which medicine never cured, wealth never warded off, or poverty could boast exemption from; which sometimes moves in giant strides, and sometimes at a tardy sluggish pace, but, slow or quick, is ever sure and certain.
    • 1926, Hope Mirrlees, chapter 19, in Lud-in-the-Mist, Millennium, published 2000:
      These berries [] are a deadly and insidious poison, though very tardy in their action, often lying dormant in the blood for many days.
    • 1972, “Thick As A Brick”, Ian Anderson (lyrics), performed by Jethro Tull:
      And the youngest of the family
      Is moving with authority
      Building castles by the sea
      He dares the tardy tide
      To wash them all aside.
  3. Ineffectual; slow-witted, slow to act, or dull.
    His tardy performance bordered on incompetence.
  4. (obsolete) Unwary; unready (especially in the phrase take (someone) tardy).
  5. (obsolete) Criminal; guilty.
    • 1697, Jeremy Collier, Essays upon Several Moral Subjects:
      And the Franks served the Men much the same ſauce when they found them tardy, and made them run their Heats through the Streets

Usage notes[edit]

  • The term suggests habitual lateness.
  • Somewhat dated in the United Kingdom.


Derived terms[edit]



tardy (plural tardies)

  1. (US) A piece of paper given to students who are late to class.
    The teacher gave her a tardy because she did not come into the classroom until after the bell.
  2. (US) An instance of a student's being marked as tardy by a teacher on the teacher's attendance sheet.

See also[edit]


tardy (third-person singular simple present tardies, present participle tardying, simple past and past participle tardied)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To make tardy.