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See also: Tardy



From an earlier tardive, from French tardif, ultimately from Vulgar Latin *tardivus, 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, 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 606515358, [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, An Essay on the Manners and Genius of the Literary Character, London: T. Cadell Jr. and W. Davies, Chapter 9, p. 122,[1]
      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, London: John Lane, pp. 202-203,[2]
      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, New York: Dial, p. 87,[3]
      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 606515358, [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 228716552:
      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 1103119849, 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, chapter XLIX, in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1839, OCLC 1057107260:
      [] 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, Lud-in-the-Mist, Millennium, 2000, Chapter 19,[4]
      These berries [] are a deadly and insidious poison, though very tardy in their action, often lying dormant in the blood for many days.
  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.