mid-13c., awaiten, "to wait for," from Old North French awaitier (Old French agaitier) "to lie in wait for, watch, observe," from a- "to" (see ad-) + waitier "to watch" (see wait (v.)). Originally especially "wait for with hostile intent, wait to ambush or spy upon." Related: Awaited; awaiting.
Entries linking to await
word-forming element expressing direction toward or in addition to, from Latin ad "to, toward" in space or time; "with regard to, in relation to," as a prefix, sometimes merely emphatic, from PIE root *ad- "to, near, at."
Simplified to a- before sc-, sp- and st-; modified to ac- before many consonants and then re-spelled af-, ag-, al-, etc., in conformity with the following consonant (as in affection, aggression). Also compare ap- (1).
In Old French, reduced to a- in all cases (an evolution already underway in Merovingian Latin), but French refashioned its written forms on the Latin model in 14c., and English did likewise 15c. in words it had picked up from Old French. In many cases pronunciation followed the shift.
Over-correction at the end of the Middle Ages in French and then English "restored" the -d- or a doubled consonant to some words that never had it (accursed, afford). The process went further in England than in France (where the vernacular sometimes resisted the pedantic), resulting in English adjourn, advance, address, advertisement (Modern French ajourner, avancer, adresser, avertissement). In modern word-formation sometimes ad- and ab- are regarded as opposites, but this was not in classical Latin.
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]
updated on April 07, 2015