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Late 14th century, "attendant, watchman," agent noun from the verb wait +‎ -er. Sense of "servant who waits at tables" is from late 15th century, originally in reference to household servants; in reference to inns, eating houses, etc., it is attested from 1660s. Feminine form waitress first recorded 1834.[1]

The London Stock Exchange sense harks back to the early days of trading in coffee-shops.



a waiter.

waiter (plural waiters, feminine waitress)

  1. A male or female attendant who serves customers at their tables in a restaurant, café or similar.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 2, in The Mirror and the Lamp[1]:
      She was a fat, round little woman, richly apparelled in velvet and lace, […]; and the way she laughed, cackling like a hen, the way she talked to the waiters and the maid, […]—all these unexpected phenomena impelled one to hysterical mirth, and made one class her with such immortally ludicrous types as Ally Sloper, the Widow Twankey, or Miss Moucher.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 5, in The China Governess[2]:
      A waiter brought his aperitif, which was a small scotch and soda, and as he sipped it gratefully he sighed.
        ‘Civilized,’ he said to Mr. Campion. ‘Humanizing.’ […] ‘Cigars and summer days and women in big hats with swansdown face-powder, that's what it reminds me of.’
    Waiter! There's a fly in my soup.
  2. Someone who waits for somebody or something; a person who is waiting.
    • 2013, Siciliani Luigi, Borowitz Michael, Moran Valerie, OECD Health Policy Studies: Waiting Time Policies in the Health Sector
      However, the NTPF also contained implicit negative incentives for the public sector by offering alternative private sector treatment for the longest waiters at no extra cost to patients or no penalty to public providers.
  3. A person working as an attendant at the London Stock Exchange.
  4. (obsolete) A vessel or tray on which something is carried, as dishes, etc.; a salver. (See etymology of dumbwaiter.)
  5. (obsolete) A custom house officer; a tide waiter.
  6. (obsolete) A watchman.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Japanese: ウエーター (uētā)


See also[edit]


Old French[edit]



  1. (Old Northern French, Anglo-Norman) Alternative form of gaitier


This verb conjugates as a first-group verb ending in -er. The forms that would normally end in *-ts, *-tt are modified to z, t. Old French conjugation varies significantly by date and by region. The following conjugation should be treated as a guide.