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Postpone vs. Delay: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
"Postpone" means to reschedule for a later time, while "Delay" means to cause to be later or behind schedule.

Key Differences

"Postpone" and "Delay" are terms that refer to a shift in timing, but they carry different connotations. "Postpone" primarily means to arrange for an event or action to take place at a later time than originally planned. "Delay," on the other hand, signifies a hindrance or obstruction that results in something not happening on time.
When you "postpone" something, it often implies a deliberate choice, usually because of a reason or circumstance. For instance, a meeting can be postponed due to a key participant being unavailable. "Delay," however, suggests that the event or action will still occur but will start after the intended time, often due to unforeseen circumstances. A train might be delayed because of technical difficulties.
Both "postpone" and "delay" can be used in various contexts, from events to tasks. However, when we "postpone" a task, it implies pushing the task to a later date intentionally. When we say a task is "delayed," it implies the task has taken longer than expected, but not necessarily because of a conscious decision to push it back.
It's worth noting that while "postpone" generally requires a decision-making entity, "delay" can occur because of uncontrollable factors. For instance, an event organizer might postpone an event due to a forecast of bad weather, but a flight might be delayed because of that unexpected bad weather.

Comparison Chart


Reschedule for a later time.
Cause to be later or behind schedule.


Often a deliberate choice.
May or may not be intentional.


Used as a verb.
Can be both a noun and a verb.


Decision-based action.
Result of hindrance or obstruction.


Requires a decision-making entity.
Can occur due to uncontrollable factors.

Postpone and Delay Definitions


To reschedule for a later time.
We decided to postpone the meeting until next week.


To put off to a later time.
They had to delay their plans because of the storm.


To put off an event or action.
They chose to postpone their vacation due to work commitments.


A period of time by which something is late or postponed.
The flight's delay was due to technical issues.


To suspend or hold off an action.
It's not a good idea to postpone paying your bills.


To cause to be behind schedule.
Traffic delays are common during rush hour.


To defer or delay deliberately.
The concert was postponed because of rain.


A hindrance or obstruction in doing something.
The project faced many delays before completion.


To cause or arrange for (an event) to take place at a time later than the time at which it was originally supposed to happen.


An instance of being later than expected.
We apologize for the delay in responding to your query.


To delay or put off an event, appointment, etc.


To postpone until a later time; defer.


(obsolete) To place after in order; to deem less important.


To cause to be later or slower than expected or desired
Heavy traffic delayed us.


To defer to a future or later time; to put off; also, to cause to be deferred or put off; to delay; to adjourn; as, to postpone the consideration of a bill to the following day, or indefinitely.
His praise postponed, and never to be paid.


To act or move slowly; put off an action or a decision.


To place after, behind, or below something, in respect to precedence, preference, value, or importance.
All other considerations should give way and be postponed to this.


The act of delaying; postponement
Responded without delay.


Hold back to a later time;
Let's postpone the exam


The condition of being delayed; detainment.


To set a later date for an occurrence.
The organizers postponed the marathon due to health concerns.


The period of time during which one is delayed.


The interval of time between two events.


A period of time before an event occurs; the act of delaying; procrastination; lingering inactivity.
The delay before the echo of a sound


(music) An audio effects unit that introduces a controlled delay.


Synonym of promise


(chess) An amount of time provided on each move before one's clock starts to tick; a less common time control than increment.


(ambitransitive) To put off until a later time; to defer.


To retard; to stop, detain, or hinder, for a time.
The mail is delayed by a heavy fall of snow.


To allay; to temper.


(obsolete) To dilute, temper.


(obsolete) To assuage, quench, allay.


A putting off or deferring; procrastination; lingering inactivity; stop; detention; hindrance.
Without any delay, on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat.
The government ought to be settled without the delay of a day.


To put off; to defer; to procrastinate; to prolong the time of or before.
My lord delayeth his coming.


To retard; to stop, detain, or hinder, for a time; to retard the motion, or time of arrival, of; as, the mail is delayed by a heavy fall of snow.
Thyrsis! whose artful strains have oft delayedThe huddling brook to hear his madrigal.


To allay; to temper.
The watery showers delay the raging wind.


To move slowly; to stop for a time; to linger; to tarry.
There seem to be certain bounds to the quickness and slowness of the succession of those ideas, . . . beyond which they can neither delay nor hasten.


Time during which some action is awaited;
Instant replay caused too long a delay
He ordered a hold in the action


The act of delaying; inactivity resulting in something being put off until a later time


Cause to be slowed down or delayed;
Traffic was delayed by the bad weather
She delayed the work that she didn't want to perform


Act later than planned, scheduled, or required;
Don't delay your application to graduate school or else it won't be considered


Stop or halt;
Please stay the bloodshed!


Slow the growth or development of;
The brain damage will retard the child's language development


Can "delay" be both a noun and a verb?

Yes, "delay" can be used as a noun to denote a period of waiting and as a verb to mean causing something to be late.

What does "postpone" mean?

"Postpone" means to reschedule an event or action for a later time.

What does "delay" refer to?

"Delay" refers to a hindrance that results in something not happening on time.

What's the opposite of "delay"?

The opposite of "delay" is to expedite or hasten.

What's the opposite of "postpone"?

The opposite of "postpone" is to advance or bring forward.

Is "postponement" the noun form of "postpone"?

Yes, "postponement" refers to the act or instance of postponing.

Can weather "postpone" an event?

Weather can be a reason to postpone an event, especially if safety or enjoyment may be compromised.

Can "delay" mean the duration of waiting?

Yes, as a noun, "delay" can refer to the period of time by which something is late.

Is "postpone" always a deliberate action?

While "postpone" often implies a deliberate choice, it can sometimes be due to unforeseen circumstances.

Can we say "postpone a delay"?

It would be redundant. Instead, one might say "postpone to avoid a delay."

Can an event be both postponed and delayed?

Yes. An event can be postponed to another date and still face delays on that rescheduled date.

Is a "delay" always negative?

Not always. While often seen as inconvenient, a delay can sometimes be beneficial or neutral.

When should one use "postpone" instead of "delay"?

Use "postpone" when referring to intentionally rescheduling, and "delay" when something is behind schedule, often due to unforeseen reasons.

Is "to put off" a synonym for "postpone"?

Yes, "to put off" can be synonymous with "postpone."

Can machinery "delay" a process?

Yes, if machinery malfunctions or breaks down, it can delay a process.

What's a synonym for "delay"?

A synonym for "delay" is "holdup."

Can you "postpone" a decision?

Yes, decisions can be postponed if more time is needed for consideration.

Can a "delay" in a decision affect outcomes?

Yes, delays in decision-making can influence results, either positively or negatively.

Can weather "delay" a flight?

Yes, bad weather conditions can delay flights.

Is "postponed" the past tense of "postpone"?

Yes, "postponed" is the past tense of "postpone."
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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