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Sometimes government officials take an awful lot of time to process a certain file. Or students working on research problems may sit on a problem for long without making any meaningful progress. Could someone suggest a word for the same, say a replacement for 'sit on'? I have a few examples here:

1) Prof to student: Don't __ on this problem for long, you may end up at a cul-de-sac.

2) You have been _ and delaying my file for too long, please process it with urgency.

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No single word occurs to me but holding (on to) should fit most situations: "Don't hold on to this problem for long"; "You have been holding my file for too long". – Kris Feb 15 '12 at 8:38
What's wrong with the two words in the question? "Idle" and "sit on"? – slim Feb 15 '12 at 11:38
up vote 3 down vote accepted

For the second example, one might use one of

  • trifle with, "to play the fool with; to treat without respect or seriousness; to mock"
  • thumb-twiddle; "the thumbs circle around a common focal point", "thumb twiddling is frequently used as an example of a useless, time-wasting activity"
  • sit on, or sit on hands, idiom, "To fail to act" [edit: I see "sit on" is in question already]
  • dally, "To delay unnecessarily; to while away" or dilly-dally, "to dawdle; to waste time; to procrastinate"
  • procrastinate, "To put off; to delay taking action; to wait until later. "

Some of the above but not all apply to the first example too.

I've also heard the term goldbricking used of bureaucrats, but from the definition "shirking or malingering" it may be an imperfect fit.

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Colloquial terms would include 'dillydally' and 'dawdle.' A term I don't hear very often anymore but that works well is 'tarry.'

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I don't believe ;dilly-dally' is is a colloquial phrase. It's a highly colorful expression used to somehow imply a 'feminine'-type of irresoluteness to the person who is dallying. It is very rare to hear, but when it is spoken it is instantly understood. This was a common phrase used by crew chiefs on 'slicks' (troop-carrying helicopters in the Viet Nam conflict to hurry along the unloading process at the landing zone....usually with a four-letter word tacked on at the end (e.g, 'let's go ladies...no dilly-dally, s#@t!' – user3847 Aug 3 '15 at 11:43

When the act of delaying a process is intended it's called stalling and the verb is to stall. It can be both transitive or intransitive.

However, for 1) I'd rather use other alternatives as there seems to be no intention of deliberately stalling there.


1. To put or lodge in a stall.
2. To maintain in a stall for fattening: to stall cattle.
3. To halt the motion or progress of; bring to a standstill.
4. To cause (a motor or motor vehicle) accidentally to stop running.
5. To cause (an aircraft) to go into a stall.
1. To live or be lodged in a stall. Used of an animal.
2. To stick fast in mud or snow.
3. To come to a standstill: Negotiations stalled.
4. To stop running as a result of mechanical failure: The car stalled on the freeway.
5. To lose forward flying speed, causing a stall. Used of an aircraft.

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I like "get stuck on" personally.

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You may use spend time. It is more neutral.

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