• A brief pause or interval of rest, especially in the midst of something demanding or disagreeable
  • A postponement of something stressful or disagreeable, especially a punishment or repayment of a debt


  • To cause a delay or create a break in something; to postpone


If you've ever found yourself lunging for the doors during the intermission of a bad play, you know how valuable a respite can be. When dealing with something unpleasant or difficult, simply barreling through it nonstop isn't always the best strategy. Respiting yourself with a short break in the middle, or even delaying the start until you're better prepared, can allow you to best direct your energies and fortify yourself for what's to come.

Ah, how lovely a good respite can be! This word is most commonly used as a noun to describe a delay or break that happens in the middle of something. Respites are usually extremely welcome, as they most often occur during unpleasant or strenuous events. For example, you might get a respite in the form of an intermission during a long exam (like the GRE), a recess in the middle of a court hearing, or a hot cocoa break during an afternoon spent shoveling snow. Whatever the specific context, the word almost always conveys a sense of much needed recovery, an opportunity to soothe the nerves, rest the muscles, and generally prevent oneself from being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, though, you can count on a respite to come to an end: the implied break is always temporary and often brief, and after the respite is over your travails will most likely pick up right where they left off - but perhaps you will be better prepared to deal with them.

Sometimes, respite also refers to a postponement of, rather than an intermission in, an expected unpleasant event. This usage is often applied to the delay of something like a trial or the commencement of a prison sentence; for this reason, such a respite is often granted out of pity or clemency. Respite can also be used as a verb to describe the act of causing or granting a short break in disagreeable proceedings.

Example: Jackie used one of her vacation days to take off from work and enjoy a respite at the beach.

Example: Wiping sweat from his brow, Harry decided to take a respite from his yard work by sitting in the shade for a few minutes.

Example: The students applauded their teacher's announcement that she would respite their exam for a few days.

Derivative Words

Respited: The preterit form of the verb respite describes a past action of postponement or rest.

Example: The coach respited his players by giving them a day off from training in the middle of the week.

Respiting: This form is used to describe when someone is currently engaged in suspending something or causing a break, or as a noun to describe the act of doing such a thing.

Example: Respiting the exam proved an imprudent decision, as most of the students ended up studying less.

Respites: This third-person present tense form of respite is used when a singular subject delays or causes a pause in something.

Example: The writer respites himself from his work by taking a walk several times each afternoon.


If you're getting tired of complex, uncertain etymologies, respite might just give you a break. From its humble beginnings as the Latin respectus, which meant "regard," "concern," or "esteem," (also the root of the English respect), the word made a simple journey into Old French. Its embodiment in this language, respit, also described a delay or a short rest, possibly indicating that the need to recover during an ordeal must be considered. Respite first appeared in English during the mid-1200s.

In Literature

From J.R.R. Tolkein's The Fellowship of the Ring:

"Always after a defeat and a respite," says Gandalf, "the shadow takes another shape and grows again."

Here, respite is used to describe a short period of recovery which allows the evil to fortify itself for its next strike.


  • Take relief in a respite
  • Respite is a rest from the tempest


Recovery, Recess, Pause, Delay, Labor Day, Legal

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of respite. Did you use respite in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.