I'm looking for a single word that means delaying an unpleasant task, or perhaps delaying a task to the point in which delaying became unpleasant (or noticeably excessive).

Postponing is not a good word because it could simply mean rescheduling.

Delaying is also not a great term for what I'm looking for, since it doesn't imply anything necessarily unpleasant.

I think dragging has a similar vibe to what I'm looking for, but I can't use it since I haven't really started the task yet.

  • Can you provide a sample sentence to use it in? Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 19:16

5 Answers 5


The verb procrastinate / noun procrastination is an almost exact fit:

procrastinate verb [ I ]

to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring

[Cambridge English Dictionary]

Note that this means 'delay/ing an unpleasant task'; it takes no object (the 'unpleasant task' is implied).

  • 1
    I would think this is what the OP had in mind especially since her first word was “postponing” which begins with a “p” and is similar in length of procrastinate. One thing I’m uncertain about with regards to the delaying is if she was talking about the decision not to perform the action, or if she was talking about delaying the task from anyone being able to perform it (as in sabotage or blocking). Given the examples, I’m still inclined to believe procrastinate is the best choice.
    – vol7ron
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 22:25
  • While you correctly point out that it takes no object, it's easy to make a construction that clarifies what task is being delayed; e.g.: "I'm procrastinating on getting those TPS reports out." I'm not sure if it's proper English, but it's certainly widely used when the object is unclear. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 17:16
  • I ended up using procrastinating. The fact that procrastinating doesn't take an object however, makes the emphasis on unpleasant/boring rather weak (in my opinion). Foot-dragging is a great term but it has the same problem; it describes the subject and not the object. Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 18:25

Your instincts about "dragging" are correct; however, the term in actual use is



Reluctance or deliberate delay concerning a decision or action.


failure to act with the necessary promptness or vigor

There is an implication here that the person dragging their feet is under some obligation to do something or go somewhere, but is unwilling to do it. You can drag your feet even in taking an action to start your task.


to temporize TFD

  1. To act or speak in order to gain time, avoid an argument, or postpone a decision

As in:

Facing an unpopular task, he temporized, hoping it would "go away".


The following usage of put off may convey the idea:

to delay doing something, especially because you do not want to do it.

  • I was trying to put off the moment when I would have to leave. You can’t put the decision off any longer.


  • 2
    How is "put off" single word? Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 9:17
  • 2
    @GreenAsJade with the magic of hyphenation, we can have "put-off" similar to "put-down" or similar ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 6:26
  • A put-down is a thing. A hyphenated noun. However if I put off something that's a verb and an adverb ... I think! I don't think that I put-off something, where that is a verb. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 10:38
  • 2
    @GreenAsJade - consider “put off” as a single expression if that can make you feel better.
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 10:47
  • This is English, you can do anything you want, so long as it is clear.
    – MikeB
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 11:21


delay or divert (someone/some task) by prevarication.

  • stall him until I'm finished.

Second meaning

(SAILING) have insufficient wind power in the sails to give controlled motion.

(MOTOR/ENGINE) to have insufficient momentum to carry through a complete power cycle, to cease operation for lack of momentum.

So colloquially one might say "I'm stalled on writing the job reference for young Mister Moosehead because I can't find the words to say how terrible a worker he is."

  • Being 'stalled' is basically a passive thing, rather than a choice.
    – MikeB
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 11:23

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