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stay (v.1)

mid-15c., "cease going forward, come to a halt," also (transitive) "detain, hold back," from Old French estai-, stem of estare "to stay or stand," from Latin stare "to stand, stand still, remain standing; be upright, be erect; stand firm, stand in battle; abide; be unmovable; be motionless; remain, tarry, linger; take a side," (source also of Italian stare, Spanish estar "to stand, to be"), from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm." Sense of "remain" is first recorded 1570s; that of "reside as a guest for a short period" is from 1550s. Related: Stayed; staying.

Of things, "remain in place," 1590s. Stay put is first recorded 1843, American English. "To stay put is to keep still, remain in order. A vulgar expression" [Bartlett]. Phrase stay the course is originally (1885) in reference to horses holding out till the end of a race. Stay-stomach was (1800) "a snack."

stay (n.1)

"support, prop, brace," 1510s, from French estaie "piece of wood used as a support," Old French estaie "prop, support," perhaps from Frankish *staka "support" or some other Germanic word, from Proto-Germanic *stagaz (source also of Middle Dutch stake "stick," Old English steli "steel," stæg "rope used to support a mast"), from PIE *stak- "to stand, place" (see stay (n.2)). In some uses from stay (v.2).

stay (n.2)

"strong rope which supports a ship's mast," from Old English stæg "rope used to support a mast," from Proto-Germanic *stagaz (source also of Dutch stag, Low German stach, German Stag, Old Norse stag "stay of a ship"), from PIE *stak- "to stand, place," perhaps ultimately an extended form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."

stay (v.2)

"support, sustain," early 15c., from French estayer (Modern French étayer), originally in nautical use, "secure by stays," from estaie (see stay (n.1)). The nautical sense in English is from 1620s. Related: Stayed; staying.

stay (n.3)

1520s, "delay, postponement, period of remaining in a place," from stay (v.1). Meaning "action of stoppage, appliance for stopping" is 1530s; that of "suspension of judicial proceedings" is from 1540s.

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Definitions of stay from WordNet
1
stay (v.)
stay the same; remain in a certain state;
stay alone
Synonyms: remain / rest
stay (v.)
stay put (in a certain place); "We are staying in Detroit; we are not moving to Cincinnati";
Synonyms: stick / stick around / stay put
stay (v.)
dwell;
stay a bit longer--the day is still young
You can stay with me while you are in town
Synonyms: bide / abide
stay (v.)
continue in a place, position, or situation;
After graduation, she stayed on in Cambridge as a student adviser
Synonyms: stay on / continue / remain
stay (v.)
remain behind;
I had to stay at home and watch the children
stay (v.)
stop or halt;
Please stay the bloodshed!
Synonyms: detain / delay
stay (v.)
stay behind;
The smell stayed in the room
Synonyms: persist / remain
stay (v.)
hang on during a trial of endurance;
Synonyms: last out / ride out / outride
stay (v.)
stop a judicial process;
The judge stayed the execution order
stay (v.)
fasten with stays;
stay (v.)
overcome or allay;
Synonyms: quell / appease
2
stay (n.)
continuing or remaining in a place or state;
a lengthy hospital stay
they had a nice stay in Paris
a four-month stay in bankruptcy court
stay (n.)
the state of inactivity following an interruption;
the momentary stay enabled him to escape the blow
Synonyms: arrest / check / halt / hitch / stop / stoppage
stay (n.)
a judicial order forbidding some action until an event occurs or the order is lifted;
the Supreme Court has the power to stay an injunction pending an appeal to the whole Court
stay (n.)
a thin strip of metal or bone that is used to stiffen a garment (e.g. a corset);
stay (n.)
(nautical) brace consisting of a heavy rope or wire cable used as a support for a mast or spar;
From wordnet.princeton.edu