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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. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 3, Act IV, Scene 3,[1]
      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,[2]
      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,[3]
      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,[4]
      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.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, Richard II, Act II, Scene 1,[5]
      [] fashions in proud Italy,
      Whose manners still our tardy apish nation
      Limps after in base imitation.
    • 1638, George Sandys, “To the Prince” in A Paraphrase upon the Divine Poems, London,[6]
      Nor should their Age by Yeares be told:
      Whose Souls, more swift then Motion, clime;
      And check the tardy Flight of Time.
    • 1700, Matthew Prior, “Carmen Seculare, For the Year 1700. To the King” in Poems on Several Occasions, London: Jacob Tonson, 2nd edition, 1709, p. 151,[7]
      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.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, Chapter 49,[8]
      [] 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, Millenium, 2000, Chapter 19,[9]
      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).
    • c. 1592,, William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act IV, Scene 1,[10]
      Be not ta’en tardy by unwise delay.
    • 1663, Samuel Butler, Hudibras, London, Canto 3, p. 104,[11]
      Yield, Scoundrel base (quoth she) or die;
      Thy life is mine, and liberty.
      But if thou think’st I took thee tardy,
      And dar’st presume to be so hardy,
      To try thy fortune o’re afresh,
      I’le wave my title to thy flesh,
  5. (obsolete) Criminal; guilty.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Collier to this entry?)

Usage notes[edit]

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




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 being marked as tardy by a teacher in his or her 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.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)