give pause


  1. a temporary stop or rest, especially in speech or action: a short pause after each stroke of the oar.
  2. a cessation of activity because of doubt or uncertainty; a momentary hesitation.
  3. any comparatively brief stop, delay, wait, etc.: I would like to make a pause in my talk and continue after lunch.
  4. a break or rest in speaking or reading to emphasize meaning, grammatical relation, metrical division, etc., or in writing or printing by the use of punctuation.
  5. Prosody. a break or suspension, as a caesura, in a line of verse.
  6. Music. a fermata.

verb (used without object), paused, paus·ing.

  1. to make a brief stop or delay; wait; hesitate: He paused at the edge of the pool for a moment. I’ll pause in my lecture so we can all get some coffee.
  2. to dwell or linger (usually followed by on or upon): to pause upon a particular point.
  1. give pause, to cause to hesitate or be unsure, as from surprise or doubt: These frightening statistics give us pause.

verb (intr)

  1. to cease an action temporarily; stop
  2. to hesitate; delayshe replied without pausing


  1. a temporary stop or rest, esp in speech or action; short break
  2. prosody another word for caesura
  3. Also called: fermata music a continuation of a note or rest beyond its normal lengthUsual symbol:
  4. give pause to to cause to hesitate

early 15c., from Old French pausee “a pause, interruption” (14c.) and directly from Latin pausa “a halt, stop, cessation,” from Greek pausis “stopping, ceasing,” from pauein “to stop, to cause to cease,” from PIE root *paus- “to leave, desert, cease, stop.”


mid-15c., from pause (n.) and from Middle French pauser, from Late Latin pausare “to halt, cease, pause.” Related: Paused; pausing.


  1. A temporary stop or cessation.

Cause one to hesitate, as in The high monthly installment payments gave me pause, or, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet (3:1): “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come … Must give us pause.” [c. 1600]

see give pause.

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