The Meaning of Hold Off: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of hold off is? Maybe you have seen this word in a crossword puzzle. This guide will give you all of the info you need on the phrase hold off, including its definitions, etymology, synonyms, sentence examples, and more!

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What does the term hold off mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the phrase; verb hold off has a few different definitions. The first definition is a transitive verb meaning to delay or block something from some objective. The second meaning is also a transitive verb meaning to defer some action or postpone something from happening. The third transitive verb meaning is to fight or withstand something. The term hold off can also be used as an intransitive verb to mean to defer, or temporarily stop doing something. This is a very common phrase and is commonly seen in many sentences of people telling others to stop. Other forms of the verb include held off, holding off, and holds off. Hold off is a verb, where a hold off would be a noun. 

What is the etymology of the term hold off?

According to Etymonline, the term hold off has been used as an intransitive verb since the 1600s, and as a transitive verb since the early 15th century. 

How can the term hold off be used in a sentence?

The term hold off can be used in many different ways. It is considered a polite term, so it is perfectly acceptable for use in more professional or formal settings. In this first example, Sadie is talking to her boss about all of the tasks that she plans to do today.

Sadie: I have to generate those reports and get them into legal, I also have to submit your August expenses and book the cars for your trip next week. 

Boss: Great. Get started on the reports and the cars, but hold off on the August expenses. I have to go through those and figure out if there are any I can cut before you turn them in. Could you print out that you have and put it on my desk for review?

Sadie: For sure!

In this next example, Sadie will use the term hold off in a different context, also with her boss.

Sadie: Um, ma’am?

Boss: Yes?

Sadie: Your 3:30PM meeting is here and wants to get started.

Boss: It’s only 3:15.

Sadie: Yes, I know. They are very… forceful.

Boss: Alright. Hold them off for five minutes while I collect all the materials. Get them water, coffee, whatever drink takes the longest.

Sadie: Copy that! On it!

In this final example, Sadie will use the term hold off in yet another different context, this time with her coworker Marissa.

Sadie: Marissa! How did your date go? That guy seemed awesome!

Marissa: Yeah, he was really nice.

Sadie: Are you going to go out with him again? Are you going to text him?

Marissa: I think I’m going to hold off. Honestly, I really liked him but he just didn’t seem that into me. It was kind of a bummer. 

What are synonyms for the term hold off?

Since the term hold off has four different definitions, this means that it will have four different sets of synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same thing as a given word or phrase. All of these different collections of synonyms are from Thesaurus

First, the phrase hold off can mean to block something from some objective. All of the below are synonyms for this definition:

  • limit
  • ward off
  • baffle
  • balk
  • arrest
  • obviate
  • frustrate
  • cork
  • impede
  • chill
  • repress
  • dam
  • put an end to
  • avoid
  • restrain
  • put a stop to
  • stop
  • head off
  • bar
  • hamper
  • shut out
  • nip in the bud
  • block
  • obstruct
  • preclude
  • forbid
  • stave off
  • thwart
  • counteract
  • hold back
  • restrict
  • defend against
  • inhibit
  • prohibit
  • hinder
  • forestall
  • intercept
  • interdict
  • cool
  • halt
  • forfend
  • avert
  • interrupt
  • foil
  • retard
  • anticipate
  • rule out
  • keep lid on
  • counter
  • prevent
  • debar
  • check
  • turn aside

Next, the word hold off can mean to defer some certain action to a later date. All of the below words and phrases are synonyms for this definition.

  • cool it
  • hold over
  • prorogue
  • hold up
  • give a rain check
  • hang fire
  • lay over
  • adjourn
  • defer
  • shelve
  • delay
  • put on back burner
  • postpone
  • table
  • suspend
  • pigeonhole
  • put back
  • put on hold

Next, the term hold off can mean to fight to a death or end. The below are all synonyms for this definition of the term hold off. 

  • battle
  • assault
  • buck
  • remain firm
  • refrain
  • weather
  • standoff
  • assail
  • stand up to
  • prevent
  • continue
  • check
  • stonewall
  • hinder
  • remain
  • thwart
  • refuse
  • repel
  • repulse
  • duel
  • forgo
  • put up a fight
  • keep from
  • countervail
  • leave alone
  • turn down
  • bear
  • stay
  • defy
  • contend
  • die hard
  • persist
  • curb
  • struggle against
  • maintain
  • suffer
  • hold out against
  • confront
  • counteract
  • brook
  • antagonize
  • abstain from
  • combat
  • hold
  • abide
  • dispute
  • persevere
  • fight back
  • forbear
  • endure
  • traverse

Finally, the term hold off can mean to temporarily stop doing something. This final set of synonyms can be used in place of this definition. 

  • slow down
  • fence
  • brake
  • hamper
  • slow
  • put off
  • drag one’s feet
  • quibble
  • play for time
  • beat around the bush
  • stop
  • avoid the issue
  • postpone
  • temporize
  • die
  • stand still
  • interrupt
  • stand off
  • tarry
  • shut down
  • stonewall
  • take one’s time
  • halt
  • hedge
  • check
  • arrest
  • still
  • stay
  • prevaricate
  • not move
  • equivocate
  • hinder
  • filibuster
  • suspend
  • stand

Overall, the term hold off has four various definitions that all relate to the idea of stopping, resisting, or delaying. First, the term hold off can mean to block someone or something from an objective. Next, it can mean to defer some action. Third, it can mean to fight to a death or stand off, and lastly, it can mean to defer or stop doing something temporarily. This phrasal verb is very versatile and can be used in many different ways.