early 13c., "a watcher, onlooker," from Old North French wait (Old French gait "look-out, watch, sentry"), from Old North French waitier (Old French gaitier; see wait (v.)). Compare Old High German wahta, German Wacht "a watchman." From late 14c. as "an ambush, a trap" (as in lie in wait). From 1855 as "time occupied in waiting;" 1873 as "an act of waiting." From the sense "civic employee responsible for signaling the hour or an alarm by sounding on a trumpet, etc." comes the old sense "town musicians" (mid-15c.).
c. 1200, "to watch with hostile intent, lie in wait for, plot against," from Anglo-French and Old North French waitier "to watch" (Old French gaitier "defend, watch out, be on one's guard; lie in wait for;" Modern French guetter), from Frankish *wahton or another Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *waht- (source also of Dutch wacht "a watching," Old High German wahten, German wachten "to watch, to guard;" Old High German wahhon "to watch, be awake," Old English wacian "to be awake"), from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." General sense of "remain in some place" is from late 14c.; that of "to see to it that something occurs" is late 14c. Meaning "to stand by in attendance on" is late 14c.; specific sense of "serve as an attendant at a table" is from 1560s. Related: Waited; waiting.
To wait (something) out "endure a period of waiting" is recorded from 1849. Waiting room is attested from 1680s. Waiting list is recorded from 1841; the verb wait-list "to put (someone) on a waiting list" is recorded from 1960. Waiting game is recorded from 1835, originally in horse-racing.
When speed, not stoutness, is the best of a horse, quite a contrary system is practised. With such a horse, the jockey plays a waiting game; that is, he carefully nurses him through the race, so as not to distress him by overpacing him; as the finish approaches, he creeps up to his horses by degrees, but does not quit them to go in front till he sees that the pace has made them "safe," — when he lets loose and wins. [James Christie Whyte, "History of the British Turf," London, 1840]
late 14c., "attendant, watchman," agent noun from wait (v.). Sense of "attendant at a meal, servant who waits at tables" is from late 15c., originally in reference to household servants; in reference to inns, eating houses, etc., it is attested from 1660s.
c. 1300, "deprive of legal protection," from Anglo-French weyver "to abandon, waive" (Old French guever "to abandon, give back"), probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse veifa "to swing about," from Proto-Germanic *waif-, from PIE root *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically." In Middle English legal language, used of rights, goods, or women.
If the defendant be a woman, the proceeding is called a waiver; for as women were not sworn to the law by taking the oath of allegiance in the leet (as men anciently were when of the age of twelve years and upwards), they could not properly be outlawed, but were said to be waived, i.e., derelicta, left out, or not regarded. [from section subtitled "Outlawry" in J.J.S. Wharton, "Law-Lexicon, or Dictionary of Jurisprudence," London, 1867]
By 17c. as "to relinquish, forbear to insist on or claim, defer for the present." Related: Waived; waiving.