Top 45 Slang For Waiting – Meaning & Usage

Waiting, a universal experience that we all endure at some point in our lives. Whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store or anxiously anticipating a text back, we’ve got you covered with the top slang terms that capture the essence of this all too familiar feeling. Get ready to upgrade your waiting game with our listicle that will have you nodding in agreement and maybe even chuckling at the accuracy of these expressions.

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1. Drumming fingers

This phrase refers to the act of tapping one’s fingers on a surface, usually due to impatience or frustration while waiting.

  • For example, “She sat at the doctor’s office, drumming her fingers on the armrest.”
  • Someone might say, “I could tell he was getting annoyed because he started drumming his fingers on the table.”
  • Another usage could be, “While waiting for the bus, I found myself drumming my fingers on my phone.”

2. Holding your horses

This phrase is used to tell someone to be patient and wait calmly.

  • For instance, “Hold your horses, the movie will start in a few minutes.”
  • A parent might say, “Hold your horses, dinner will be ready soon.”
  • Another usage could be, “I know you’re excited, but let’s hold our horses until everyone is here.”

3. Hanging around

This phrase refers to loitering or lingering in a place without a specific purpose, often while waiting for something or someone.

  • For example, “I was just hanging around the park, waiting for my friends to arrive.”
  • Someone might say, “I don’t have any plans today, so I’ll just hang around the coffee shop.”
  • Another usage could be, “He didn’t have anything to do, so he decided to hang around the mall.”

4. Twiddling your thumbs

This phrase means to pass the time by rotating one’s thumbs around each other, often due to boredom or impatience while waiting for something.

  • For instance, “She sat in the waiting room, twiddling her thumbs to pass the time.”
  • A person might say, “I hate waiting, so I usually end up twiddling my thumbs.”
  • Another usage could be, “Instead of twiddling my thumbs, I like to read a book while waiting.”

5. Champing at the bit

This phrase originated from the behavior of horses that would bite on their bits, a metal mouthpiece used to control them, when they were eager to start running. It now means to be impatient or eager to do something.

  • For example, “He was champing at the bit to start his new job.”
  • Someone might say, “I can’t wait for the concert, I’m champing at the bit.”
  • Another usage could be, “The team was champing at the bit to get back on the field after halftime.”

6. Marking time

This phrase refers to the act of waiting without any particular purpose or activity. It implies a sense of boredom or frustration with the waiting process.

  • For example, “I spent the whole afternoon marking time in the waiting room.”
  • A person might say, “I hate marking time at the airport during layovers.”
  • Another might complain, “I feel like I’m always marking time in traffic.”

7. Cooling your heels

This expression means to wait impatiently or anxiously. It suggests a sense of restlessness or eagerness for the waiting to be over.

  • For instance, “I’ve been cooling my heels for hours waiting for my appointment.”
  • Someone might say, “I can’t stand cooling my heels while waiting for test results.”
  • Another might remark, “I’m tired of cooling my heels in this never-ending line.”

8. Tapping your foot

This phrase describes the action of tapping one’s foot rhythmically while waiting. It conveys impatience, annoyance, or frustration with the waiting process.

  • For example, “He was tapping his foot impatiently while waiting for the bus.”
  • A person might say, “I couldn’t help but tap my foot as I waited for the slow elevator.”
  • Another might comment, “I could tell she was getting annoyed by the way she was tapping her foot.”

9. Languishing

This term refers to the act of waiting in a state of boredom, inactivity, or lack of progress. It implies a sense of frustration or dissatisfaction with the waiting situation.

  • For instance, “I feel like I’m languishing in this never-ending meeting.”
  • Someone might say, “I’m tired of languishing in this dead-end job.”
  • Another might complain, “I can’t stand languishing in this waiting room any longer.”

10. Looming

This word describes the act of waiting with a sense of something impending or approaching. It suggests a mix of anticipation, anxiety, and uncertainty in the waiting process.

  • For example, “The deadline is looming, and I’m still waiting for approval.”
  • A person might say, “I can feel the exams looming, and it’s making me anxious.”
  • Another might remark, “The interview is looming, and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

11. Standing by

This phrase is often used in a professional context to indicate that someone is prepared and available to assist or take action if needed. It implies a state of readiness and anticipation.

  • For example, a pilot might say, “We’re standing by for clearance to take off.”
  • In a business meeting, someone might say, “I’ll be standing by in case any technical issues arise.”
  • A customer service representative might assure a caller, “I’ll stay on the line and stand by until your issue is resolved.”

12. Lurking

In online communities, “lurking” refers to the act of reading or observing conversations without actively participating or engaging with others. It implies a state of silently watching or monitoring.

  • For instance, someone might say, “I’ve been lurking on this forum for months, but this is my first post.”
  • In a chat room, a user might comment, “I’m just lurking here to see if anyone has the same issue.”
  • A social media user might confess, “I spend hours lurking on Instagram, but I never post anything.”

13. Loitering

In a general sense, “loitering” refers to lingering or remaining in a public place without any apparent reason or purpose. It often has a negative connotation, implying idleness or suspicious behavior.

  • For example, a security guard might approach someone and say, “You can’t loiter here. Move along.”
  • A sign in a store might warn, “No loitering allowed on the premises.”
  • A parent might scold a child, “Stop loitering around and do something productive.”

14. Holding the line

This phrase is commonly used when someone is waiting on the phone for an extended period of time, typically while on hold or waiting for someone to answer their call. It implies patiently staying connected and not hanging up.

  • For instance, a customer might say, “I’ve been holding the line for over 20 minutes. When will someone assist me?”
  • A receptionist might apologize, “Thank you for holding the line. We are experiencing high call volumes.”
  • A person might ask a friend, “Can you hold the line while I grab a pen to write down the information?”

15. On tenterhooks

This phrase describes a state of extreme anticipation or anxiety while waiting for something to happen. It implies being on edge or in a state of suspense.

  • For example, a student might say, “I’m on tenterhooks waiting for my exam results.”
  • A fan of a TV show might exclaim, “I’m on tenterhooks to find out what happens in the next episode!”
  • A person waiting for a job offer might admit, “I’ve been on tenterhooks all week, checking my email every five minutes.”

16. Waiting with bated breath

This phrase is used to describe the feeling of waiting eagerly and anxiously for something to happen. It implies holding one’s breath in anticipation.

  • For example, “I’m waiting with bated breath for the results of my job interview.”
  • A person might say, “I’m waiting with bated breath to hear if I got accepted into my dream college.”
  • Another might exclaim, “I’m waiting with bated breath for the release of the new Marvel movie!”

17. Chilling

This slang term refers to the act of being calm and relaxed while waiting for something. It implies a laid-back attitude towards the waiting process.

  • For instance, “I’m just chilling and waiting for my friends to arrive.”
  • A person might say, “I’m chilling at home, waiting for the pizza delivery.”
  • Another might comment, “I’m chilling by the pool, waiting for the sun to set.”

18. Anticipating

This term describes the feeling of eagerly expecting or looking forward to something. It implies a sense of excitement and anticipation.

  • For example, “I’m anticipating the release of the new album by my favorite artist.”
  • A person might say, “I’m anticipating the arrival of my family for the holidays.”
  • Another might exclaim, “I’m anticipating the start of summer vacation!”

19. Wasting time

This phrase is used to describe the act of using time in a way that is not productive or meaningful while waiting for something. It implies a sense of boredom or frustration.

  • For instance, “I’m just wasting time playing video games while waiting for the train.”
  • A person might say, “I’m wasting time scrolling through social media while waiting for my appointment.”
  • Another might comment, “I’m wasting time watching TV shows while waiting for my laundry to finish.”

20. Stalling

This slang term refers to the act of intentionally delaying or prolonging the waiting process. It implies a tactic used to buy more time or avoid taking action.

  • For example, “The teacher is stalling by asking irrelevant questions while waiting for the principal.”
  • A person might say, “I’m stalling by pretending to be busy while waiting for my friend to arrive.”
  • Another might comment, “The politician is stalling by giving vague answers while waiting for the media frenzy to die down.”

21. Dilly-dallying

This term refers to the act of procrastinating or delaying something. It implies that someone is taking longer than necessary to complete a task or make a decision.

  • For example, “Stop dilly-dallying and make a choice already!”
  • A parent might scold their child, “Quit dilly-dallying and get ready for school.”
  • A friend might say, “We’re going to be late if you keep dilly-dallying like this.”

22. Doodling

Doodling is the act of drawing or sketching without a specific purpose or goal. It is often done while waiting for something or someone.

  • For instance, “I always doodle in my notebook during boring meetings.”
  • A student might say, “Doodling helps me focus and stay engaged in class.”
  • Someone might comment, “I love seeing the doodles people create while on phone calls.”

23. Pacing

Pacing refers to the act of repeatedly walking back and forth in a confined space while waiting for something. It is often a sign of restlessness or impatience.

  • For example, “He was so anxious about the test that he spent the whole night pacing in his room.”
  • A person might say, “I can’t stand waiting in lines, I always start pacing.”
  • A friend might ask, “Why are you pacing? Are you nervous about something?”

24. Holding your breath

This phrase describes the feeling of eagerly waiting for something to happen or someone to arrive. It implies that the person is holding their breath in anticipation.

  • For instance, “I’m holding my breath for the concert tickets to go on sale.”
  • A fan might say, “I’ve been holding my breath for the next season of my favorite TV show.”
  • Someone might comment, “I’m holding my breath for the test results to come in.”

25. Wasting away

This phrase suggests that someone is spending time in a purposeless or unproductive manner while waiting for something. It implies that the person is not making the most of their time.

  • For example, “I spent the whole weekend wasting away, just binge-watching TV.”
  • A person might say, “I hate wasting away my lunch break scrolling through social media.”
  • A friend might comment, “Let’s do something fun instead of wasting away the afternoon.”

26. Treading water

This phrase is often used to describe a situation where someone is not making any progress or is stuck in a state of uncertainty. It implies that the person is just trying to keep their head above water, without moving forward.

  • For example, when discussing a stalled project, someone might say, “We’re just treading water until we get more funding.”
  • In a job search, a person might feel like they’re treading water if they’re not receiving any interview offers.
  • A student waiting for college acceptance letters might say, “I’m just treading water until I hear back from my top choices.”

27. Hanging on

This phrase is used to describe a state of anticipation or waiting with excitement or anxiety. It implies that the person is eagerly waiting for something to happen or for news to arrive.

  • For instance, when waiting for the results of a medical test, someone might say, “I’m hanging on every phone call, waiting for the doctor to call with the results.”
  • A person waiting for a job offer might say, “I’m just hanging on, hoping for good news.”
  • When waiting for a loved one to return from a trip, someone might say, “I’m hanging on every minute until they get back.”

28. Lollygagging

This term is often used to describe someone who is dawdling or taking their time. It implies that the person is not being productive or efficient in their actions.

  • For example, if someone is constantly procrastinating or not getting work done, they might be accused of lollygagging.
  • A person waiting for a friend who is always running late might say, “I’m tired of lollygagging around while they take their time.”
  • When waiting for a slow internet connection to load a webpage, someone might say, “I hate lollygagging around while I wait for this to load.”

29. Dallying

Similar to lollygagging, dallying refers to someone who is wasting time or not being productive. It implies that the person is not taking their responsibilities seriously or is easily distracted.

  • For instance, if someone is constantly chatting with coworkers instead of working, they might be accused of dallying.
  • A person waiting for a repairman who keeps postponing their appointment might say, “I’m tired of dallying around while they reschedule.”
  • When waiting for a slow driver in traffic, someone might say, “Stop dallying and move!”

30. Hovering

This term is often used to describe someone who is waiting or lingering around, usually with a sense of anticipation or anxiety. It implies that the person is eagerly waiting for something to happen or for someone to arrive.

  • For example, if someone is waiting for a phone call or a text message, they might say, “I’ve been hovering by my phone all day.”
  • A person waiting for a loved one to arrive at the airport might say, “I can’t help but hover near the gate, waiting for them to show up.”
  • When waiting for a decision to be made, someone might say, “I’m hovering on the edge of my seat, waiting for the verdict.”

31. Biting nails

This phrase refers to the act of biting one’s nails out of anxiety or impatience. It is often used to describe someone who is waiting for something with a sense of nervousness or anticipation.

  • For example, “She was biting her nails while waiting for the test results.”
  • A person might say, “I’m biting my nails in anticipation of the big game tomorrow.”
  • Another might comment, “I can’t help but bite my nails when I’m waiting for important news.”

32. Twiddling one’s thumbs

This expression means to pass the time by moving one’s thumbs around in a circular motion, typically when one is bored or waiting for something.

  • For instance, “He was twiddling his thumbs while waiting for the bus.”
  • A person might say, “I spent the whole afternoon twiddling my thumbs at the doctor’s office.”
  • Another might comment, “I twiddle my thumbs when I’m waiting for my food to arrive at a restaurant.”

33. Counting down the minutes

This phrase refers to the act of mentally or physically counting the minutes that pass while waiting for a specific time or event to occur. It is often used to describe someone who is eagerly anticipating something.

  • For example, “She was counting down the minutes until her favorite TV show started.”
  • A person might say, “I can’t wait for the weekend. I’ve been counting down the minutes all week.”
  • Another might comment, “I’m counting down the minutes until my vacation begins.”

34. Waiting for the other shoe to drop

This expression means to expect that something bad or unpleasant will happen as a result of a previous event or situation. It is often used to describe a state of anticipation or suspense.

  • For instance, “After the argument, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
  • A person might say, “I feel like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop in this situation.”
  • Another might comment, “The tension in the room was palpable as everyone waited for the other shoe to drop.”

35. Playing the waiting game

This phrase refers to the act of patiently waiting for something to happen, often without knowing when it will occur. It is often used to describe a state of patience or endurance.

  • For example, “She was playing the waiting game while waiting for a job offer.”
  • A person might say, “I’m playing the waiting game to see if my offer on the house is accepted.”
  • Another might comment, “Playing the waiting game is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary.”

36. Sitting on the back burner

This phrase refers to putting something aside or giving it a lower priority, often because there are more pressing matters to attend to. It implies that the thing being delayed is not forgotten, but simply waiting for its turn.
-For example, “I have a lot of work to do, so I’m putting that project on the back burner for now.”
-In a discussion about upcoming plans, someone might say, “Let’s put that idea on the back burner until we have more information.”
-A person might mention, “I’ve been sitting on that back burner for months, waiting for the right time to pursue it.”

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37. Standing pat

This term comes from the game of poker, where a player who is “standing pat” chooses not to discard any cards and keeps their original hand. In a broader sense, it means to stay in one’s current position or not make any changes.
-For instance, in a negotiation, someone might say, “We’re standing pat on our offer; take it or leave it.”
-In a discussion about a difficult decision, a person might say, “I’ve thought about it, but for now, I’m standing pat.”
-A person might mention, “I’ve been standing pat on my career for a while, but I think it’s time to make a change.”

38. Taking a back seat

This phrase means to step aside or relinquish control to others. It often implies a temporary or secondary role, where someone is not actively involved or in charge.
-For example, in a group project, someone might say, “I’ll take a back seat and let you lead this time.”
-In a discussion about a team effort, a person might say, “I’m happy to take a back seat and support the others.”
-A person might mention, “I’ve been taking a back seat in my personal life lately, focusing on supporting my loved ones.”

39. Waiting for the dust to settle

This phrase refers to waiting for a chaotic or uncertain situation to stabilize or resolve itself. It suggests that taking action or making decisions prematurely could be unwise or ineffective.
-For instance, in a conflict, someone might say, “Let’s wait for the dust to settle before making any decisions.”
-In a discussion about a recent event, a person might say, “I’m waiting for the dust to settle before forming an opinion.”
-A person might mention, “I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle on my career situation before making any big moves.”

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40. Keeping your cool

This phrase means to maintain a calm and collected demeanor, especially in a situation where one is waiting for something. It emphasizes the importance of patience and not letting frustration or anxiety take over.
-For example, in a long line, someone might say, “Just keep your cool; we’ll get through this.”
-In a discussion about dealing with delays, a person might say, “It’s important to keep your cool and not let the wait get to you.”
-A person might mention, “I’ve been keeping my cool while waiting for news about my job application.”

41. Lurking in the shadows

This phrase refers to waiting in a hidden or unnoticed position, often with a sense of anticipation or secrecy.

  • For example, “He’s lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.”
  • In a discussion about spies, one might say, “A good spy knows how to lurk in the shadows and gather information.”
  • A person waiting for a surprise party might say, “I’ve been lurking in the shadows, trying not to spoil the surprise.”

42. In a holding pattern

This phrase comes from aviation and refers to an aircraft flying in a circular path while waiting for clearance to land. In a broader sense, it means being in a state of temporary suspension or waiting for something to happen.

  • For instance, “We’re in a holding pattern until we receive more information.”
  • In a conversation about job interviews, one might say, “I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to hear back from the company.”
  • A person waiting for a decision might say, “I feel like my life is in a holding pattern until I know what’s going to happen.”

43. On standby

This term originated from the military and refers to being ready and available for immediate action or service. In a broader sense, it means being prepared to take action or waiting for an opportunity.

  • For example, “I’m on standby, waiting for the call to come in.”
  • In a discussion about emergency responders, one might say, “Paramedics are always on standby, ready to help those in need.”
  • A person waiting for a job offer might say, “I’m on standby, hoping for good news.”

44. On the back burner

This phrase comes from cooking and refers to a pot or pan that is placed on a back burner of a stove, where it will cook at a lower temperature. In a broader sense, it means putting something aside or delaying it for a later time.

  • For instance, “I had to put my plans on the back burner while I dealt with other priorities.”
  • In a conversation about projects, one might say, “We put that idea on the back burner for now.”
  • A person waiting for a vacation might say, “I’m putting everything else on the back burner until I can relax.”

45. In the wings

This phrase comes from theater and refers to actors waiting offstage for their cue to enter. In a broader sense, it means waiting in the background for an opportunity or moment to shine.

  • For example, “She’s in the wings, waiting for her chance to impress the director.”
  • In a discussion about job promotions, one might say, “I’ve been working hard and waiting in the wings for a chance to move up.”
  • A person waiting for their turn to speak might say, “I’ll stay in the wings until it’s my time to shine.”