SKIP TO CONTENT

standby

A standby is something (or someone) you can rely on in an emergency, like the bicycle you keep as a standby in case your old car won't start.

In basketball, the players on the bench are the standbys for their teammates on the court; and in theater, an actor's understudy is her standby. When something is "on standby," it's ready to jump in or be used immediately. And when you fly on standby, you are ready to take an extra seat on a flight if one becomes available. Standby comes from nautical slang for "a vessel kept for emergencies," originally "that which stands by one."

Definitions of standby
  1. noun
    something that can be relied on when needed
    see moresee less
    type of:
    thing
    an artifact
  2. noun
    an actor able to replace a regular performer when required
    synonyms: understudy
    see moresee less
    type of:
    actor, histrion, player, role player, thespian
    a theatrical performer
  3. adjective
    ready for emergency use
    “a standby generator”
    “a standby crew”
    Synonyms:
    secondary
    being of second rank or importance or value; not direct or immediate
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week