Dilatory: The Art of Intentional Delay

The word “dilatory” might sound unfamiliar, but it packs a punch. This adjective describes something that is slow, causes delays, or tends towards procrastination. Derived from the Latin word “differre” (meaning to postpone, or delay), dilatory implies intentional stalling.

When is “Dilatory” a Good Thing?

There are instances where being dilatory is not only acceptable but beneficial. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Careful Consideration: In situations requiring important decisions, taking a dilatory approach allows for thorough analysis and well-informed judgment. You wouldn’t want your doctor rushing into surgery without a measured assessment, would you?
  • Conflict Resolution: When emotions flare, a dilatory tactic can diffuse a heated situation. Pausing before reacting helps to calm things down and encourages more productive problem-solving.

When is “Dilatory” a Bad Thing?

On the other hand, being dilatory can have negative consequences. Here are some common pitfalls:

  • Missed Deadlines: In work and school settings, a dilatory attitude towards deadlines is a recipe for lost opportunities or even failure. Procrastination can lead to stress and subpar results.
  • Legal Trouble: In the justice system, dilatory legal maneuvers intended to stall proceedings obstruct the pursuit of justice and may be seen as a sign of guilt.
  • Strained Relationships: Chronic dilatory patterns in personal relationships breed frustration and erode trust. Consistently leaving a friend hanging or arriving late to important events demonstrates a lack of consideration.

How to Use the Word “Dilatory”

You can employ “dilatory” in various contexts. Here are some examples:

  • “The board found the defendant’s dilatory tactics in court to be an aggravating factor in sentencing.”
  • “Their dilatory response to my urgent request was extremely unprofessional.”
  • “His dilatory work habits cost the project significant time and money.”

The Takeaway

“Dilatory” highlights the power of timing. Sometimes, being slow and intentional is the wiser course of action. In other cases, it signifies laziness or an attempt to avoid consequences. Understanding the nuances of this word will help you communicate effectively and navigate different life situations.


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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