I understand that when you waive something you forego it or give it up. e.g.

I waive my [right to] free coffee.

I also understand that a waiver is a document stating that you waive your rights to something, but I read the phase waive off and I don't quite understand it.

The context was

personA: Live slugs!

personB: Waive off! Waive off! This is just a practice run!

I see that waive off means stop, or go away or something like that but I can't exactly put a specific meaning to it.

What does waive off mean?

  • I think we need more context - live slugs? Was this a Monty Python skit? :)
    – John C
    Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 14:48
  • @John C - Sadly this is all the context I have. Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 14:52
  • Sorry to come so late and still, if there's no more context, where did the text come from? Whether or not Monty Python entered any race, it strikes me live slugs particularly in a practice run prolly is a military term, here meaning live ammunition. Either way, even those who started seemed to stumble over why to waive isn't to wave. I suspect Peter’s drivers only waive - never waive off qualification attempts. It would take a judge or marshal to wave them off. Presumably Tim’s sailors followed suit decades later… To waive is to give up; to wave off is to abort. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 23:29

4 Answers 4


The expression being used is wave off, not waive off.

This website from the Indianapolis Speedway explains it quite well:

Wave off – The process by which a team forfeits a qualification attempt. A driver or team can “wave off” an attempt any time before the start of the fourth and final lap in the attempt. If the run is waved off before the car takes the green flag, it does not count as one of the three allowed attempts for that car. Once the green flag is waved to start the attempt, the run counts as one attempt, even if it’s waved off.

If the context isn't auto racing (I assume it's not—what are live slugs doing in an auto race?), it's borrowed from auto racing, and has the same meaning.

  • this has credence
    – Thursagen
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 12:20
  • I think this makes most sense. Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 14:38
  • 6
    This is also the phrase used by the military when instructing a fighter pilot to abort a landing attempt, according to the definitive source of all Navy slang (Top Gun).
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 23:01
  • 2
    @Peter Shor: "what are live slugs doing in an auto race?" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snail_racing Commented May 30, 2012 at 9:32

I believe the origin of the phrase was in aircraft carriers, which have (or at least had) a crewman standing by when a plane came in to land, with a pair of signalling bats. One signal meant "lose height", another "cut power", and so on. If, however, the pilot was coming in far too fast (or the wheels had not extended properly), the batsman literally "waved the pilot off" the deck, and he went round again.

  • @Peter: I've seen nothing in anything that's been posted here that gives credence to the assertion that the racing usage of the term pre-dates the military usage of the term. Ultimately, both answers are correct, and both answer the original question adequately.
    – Toby
    Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 13:56

I believe this is slang, and Urban Dictionary does give a definition, although I don't know how much weight can be placed on this, but anyway, waive off means:

When someone or something gets ignored or disregarded.

This seems to make sense when applied in the context given, where Person A gives some disheartening information, but Person b is shouting for the others to ignore what Person A is saying, as it is "just a practice run", and therefore, nothing to panic about.

  • 1
    The user-contributed definitions at the Urban Dictionary often mix up homonyms and should not be relied upon exclusively for anything but the newest slang terms.
    – arp
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 18:18

From Urban Dictionary:

When someone or something gets ignored or disregarded.

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