The Meaning of Defer: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of defer? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word defer, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word defer mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word defer is a verb that means to act in a dilatory manner and thus lay something aside or to delay, usually in a military or educational sense. The word defer is two syllables – de-fer – and the pronunciation of defer is dɪˈfɜː. One can add different suffixes to the end of the word defer to form different tenses such as the past participle, present participle, and past tense.

Many different languages also use words that mean defer. You may notice that some of these look and sound similar to the word defer. These cognates are formed when words have a similar origin or root. This list of translations for the word defer is provided by Word Sense but you could also find translations in a digital edition of a dictionary.

  •  German: aufschieben‎, aufheben‎, verzögern‎, vertagen‎, verschieben‎, zurückstellen‎, hinausschieben‎, stunden‎, aussetzen‎, den Vortritt lassen‎
  •  Dutch: uitstellen‎
  •  Portuguese: adiar‎, pospor‎
  •  Swedish: skjuta upp‎
  •  Mandarin: 延緩‎, 延缓‎ (yánhuǎn)
  •  Cyrillic: одгодити‎
  •  Russian: откла́дывать‎ (impf), отложи́ть‎ (pf), отсро́чивать‎ (impf), отсро́чить‎ (pf)
  •  Roman: odgoditi‎
  •  Bulgarian: отлагам‎, отсрочвам‎
  •  French: différer‎
  •  Czech: odkládat‎
  •  Polish: odraczać‎, odroczyć‎
  •  Hungarian: elhalaszt‎
  •  Spanish: diferir‎
  •  Turkish: geciktirmek‎, tehir etmek‎, bekletmek‎, yubatmak‎
  •  Finnish: lykätä‎
  •  Japanese: 延期‎

What is the origin of the word defer?

According to Etymonline, the word defer comes from the late 14c Middle English deferren/Middle English differen. These come from the Old French differer/Old French deferer and Latin dēferre/Latin differre/Latin deferre, from the roots ferre and dē which form deferen.

What are synonyms and antonyms of defer?

There is a vast collection of many different words that can be used in place of the word defer, which are known as synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word defer is provided by Power Thesaurus. Try making your own word lists!

  •  refer
  •  yield
  •  cave in
  •  reschedule
  •  table
  •  respite
  •  adjourn
  •  prolong
  •  put back
  •  extend
  •  dismiss
  •  bow
  •  comply
  •  suspend
  •  put over
  •  respect
  •  stay
  •  put on ice
  •  foll
  •  push back
  •  reserve
  •  put on hold
  •  hold over
  •  put aside
  •  put off
  •  accede
  •  departure
  •  retard
  •  postponing
  •  prorogue
  •  surrender
  •  waive
  •  postpone
  •  give in
  •  procrastinate
  •  pigeonhole
  •  put on the back burner
  •  succumb
  •  hold up
  •  set back
  •  submit
  •  delay
  •  hold off
  •  capitulate
  •  remit
  •  cancel
  •  delayed
  •  acquiesce
  •  lay aside
  •  postponed
  •  obey
  •  mothball
  •  shelve
  •  protract
  •  delaying

There are also numerous different words that are the opposite of the word defer, which are called antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word defer is also provided by Power Thesaurus. 

  •  withstand
  •  take up
  •  weather
  •  a stitch in time saves nine
  •  hurry
  •  accommodate
  •  face
  •  forge
  •  continue
  •  go ahead
  •  come to a conclusion
  •  force
  •  adjudicate
  •  be hostile to
  •  set one’s face against
  •  accelerate
  •  forward
  •  go fly a kite
  •  take a stand against
  •  deal with it
  •  decide
  •  go against
  •  bear up against
  •  jump the gun
  •  scrutinize
  •  stand up to
  •  expedite
  •  stand firm against
  •  oppose
  •  combat
  •  proceed with
  •  agree
  •  allow
  •  advance
  •  defy
  •  hit the ground running
  •  attack
  •  hold the line against
  •  address oneself to
  •  take a step
  •  stitch in time saves nine
  •  resist
  •  fight against
  •  fight
  •  be anti
  •  confront
  •  make an assessment
  •  go
  •  do
  •  return fire

How can the word defer be used in a sentence?

There are many ways that the word defer can be used in a sentence in the English language. Using new words in a sentence is a great way to incorporate new lingo into your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards and quizzes that test your knowledge of the definitions of different English words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several different examples of ways in which the word defer can be used in the English language to help get your started with using this word. 

He decided to delay his induction into the compulsory military service from July to a future date in September. He felt he would buckley under the pressure, but his superior said he would lose any shot at merit awards

The new blog that the community of dictionary fans were excited about ended up being deferred due to hacking and offensive content. They couldn’t wait for the exclusive content like free word lists that they would get access to.

They had to defer the major sports events to next year due to the pandemic. Everyone would get an equal shot at a retry.

They decided to delay their wedding a year to be able to afford the sights of the dreamy mediterranean breeze. With a bow in her hair and a ring slipped past her knuckle, she wanted everything to be perfect.

The justice department deferred the meeting to an equivalent particular time next week on the last day of October. They needed time to go through the aside collection of payroll taxes supported by the President and the signatories of Tuesday’s letter.

Overall, the word defer (dɪˈfɜːr) means either the acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the power or the delaying of the realization of an asset. This word is of French and Latin origin.


  1. defer: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Defer definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  3. Defer synonyms – 1 297 Words and Phrases for Defer | Power Thesaurus 
  4. Defer antonyms – 635 Opposites of Defer | Power Thesaurus 
  5. defer | Origin and meaning of defer | Online Etymology Dictionary