From Middle English loitren, from Middle Dutch loteren (to shake, wag, wobble), ultimately connected with a frequentative form of Proto-Germanic *lūtaną (to bend, stoop, cower, shrink from, decline), see lout. Cognate with Dutch leuteren (to dawdle), Alemannic German lottern (to wobble), German Lotterbube (rascal). More at lout, little.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈlɔɪtə(ɹ)/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈlɔɪtɚ/, [ˈlɔjɾɚ]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪtə(r)


loiter (third-person singular simple present loiters, present participle loitering, simple past and past participle loitered)

  1. To stand about without any aim or purpose; to stand about idly.
    Synonyms: lepak (Malaysia, Singapore); linger; hang around
    For some reason, they discourage loitering outside the store, but encourage it inside.
  2. To remain at a certain place instead of moving on.
    • 2015 January 31, Daniel Taylor, “David Silva seizes point for Manchester City as Chelsea are checked”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 8 March 2017:
      [Sergio] Agüero, as usual, was loitering with intent and swung his left foot at the ball. The shot was going wide but [David] Silva was there to apply the decisive touch inside the six-yard area.
    • 2019, Li Huang; James Lambert, “Another Arrow for the Quiver: A New Methodology for Multilingual Researchers”, in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, DOI:10.1080/01434632.2019.1596115, page 4:
      Using the transect method, the counter had to maintain a general progress along the transect and was not able to loiter at one spot for too long.
  3. (military, aviation) For an aircraft to remain in the air near a target.

Derived termsEdit