While purchasing in Walmart, after sliding my card the card machine was saying "Waiting on cashier".

What does "waiting on" mean in this case and how it differs from "waiting for"? Would that be wrong to say "waiting for cashier" ?


4 Answers 4


"Wait on" for "wait for" is regional AmE.

It's a southernism extended into African American speech that has, in the last few years, become trendy. The exception is another regionalism, New York City, where people "wait on" line rather than "wait in" line.

  • +1 Good point and great link. Some dialect from a nondescript Southern parts doesn't count for "standard" English (whatever that is,) though.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 5:07

It would be completely correct (more correct, if you ask me) to say "waiting for cashier." Only waiters (at restaurants etc) "wait on." Waiters of the kind who experience delays do not.


I think the difference here comes between the words "on" and "for" and not so much the meaning of "wait on" or "wait for."


—used to indicate the place someone or something is going to or toward


-used to indicate the part or object by which someone or something is supported

You could say that to wait ON something means you are dependent on the object in question and therefore you are waiting on it to continue.

Waiting for something would imply that you are to receive the object in question. You are waiting on the cashier (because you rely on her to continue) but you are waiting FOR your receipt, the object which you will receive.

  • +1 Interesting hypothesis. Any references?
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 5:08
  • Hm... Much like what I thought, myself, though a bit different in a way. But neither do I have any canonical references to support my contention. Let's see.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 5:33

As represented in your statements, waiting as a verb has two uses here

  1. A state of non-movement, i.e. being stationary. Waiting for is applicable here
  2. A position of being in service or attending to another person. Waiting on is applicable here

In the scenario you've painted, waiting for the cashier is appropriate

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