Can't Wait: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
August 8, 2023

The expression "can't wait" denotes excitement and anticipation for something that's about to happen. Whether it's a long-awaited holiday or a get-together with friends, the words "can't wait" echo a joyful yearning. This saying has a literal sense, expressing an urgent need, and a more common figurative meaning, which reflects excitement for an upcoming event or occasion.

In short:

  • You say "can't wait" to show you're very excited about something in the future.
  • It can also mean that something is urgently needed or that patience is running thin.

What Does "Can't Wait" Mean?

The phrase "can't wait" holds a place in our everyday language, signifying strong eagerness or excitement for something that will happen. If you say, "I can't wait for the weekend," it means you're really looking forward to it.

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • "Can't wait" usually expresses enthusiasm or eagerness about an upcoming event, like a vacation or a special celebration.
  • You might use it when you're discussing something you're looking forward to and want to show how excited you are.
  • It's more than just a simple desire; "can't wait" indicates a level of excitement that makes you feel impatient for the event to happen.
  • People often use it to express joyful anticipation, like saying "I can't wait to see you" to a friend you've missed.
  • In a more literal sense, "can't wait" can imply an urgent need, as in "I can't wait any longer for the manager; I have an emergency at home." 

Where Does "Can't Wait" Come From?

The term "can't wait" comes from the literal understanding of not being able to delay something. With time, its use became more figurative, reflecting an emotional state of impatience and a strong desire for something eagerly anticipated. It's a blend of literal impatience and a figurative expression of eagerness that has found its way into common language.

Historical Example

"She may be married to him in a fortnight! She may be married to him this morning! I can't wait! I can't wait!"

- Armadale: A Novel by By Wilkie Collins, 1866

10 Examples of "Can't Wait" in Sentences

To show you how this expression is used, let's look at some examples in various situations:

  • Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated. I can’t wait to hear from you again.
  • She can't wait for the concert next week; she's been looking forward to it for months.
  • Thanks for the invite; I can't wait to join you all at the gathering.
  • They can't wait to get their hands on the latest video game release.
  • He can't wait for the rain to stop so he can go play outside.
  • How is your day going? I can't wait to hear all about it over dinner.
  • The kids can't wait for Christmas morning to open their presents.
  • Yes, please, I would love some coffee. I can’t wait to taste your delicious brew.
  • I can't wait to see that old-skool band play live next week.
  • We're releasing our products in tandem with our partners, and I can't wait to see the results.

Examples of "Can't Wait" in Pop Culture

This phrase often appears in pop culture, symbolizing anticipation and excitement.

Let's look at some examples:

  • "I Can't Wait" is a song by the American group Nu Shooz, included on the band's second album, "Tha's Right" from 1985.
  • Icona Pop performed a song titled "I Can't Wait" in 2015, adding to the pop genre.
  • The J. Geils Band has a song called "Just Can't Wait."
  • NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" featured an episode titled "The summer movies, TV and music we can't wait for," discussing anticipated entertainment for the summer season.
  • E! Online published an article titled "14 Pop Culture Events E! Can't Wait For in 2023," highlighting the most awaited movies, TV shows, concerts, and special events for the year.
  • Yahoo Entertainment also discussed the "2022 Pop Culture Moments We Can't Wait For!" including events like Adele's Vegas show, Justin Bieber & Billie Eilish's tour, and a "Game of Thrones" prequel.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Can't Wait"

You can find various other expressions that mean the same as "can't wait."

Here are some examples:

  • Eagerly looking forward
  • Excited about
  • Anxious for
  • Impatiently waiting for
  • Anticipating with excitement
  • Barely able to hold on
  • Desperate for
  • Ready for
  • Thrilled about
  • Longing for

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Can't Wait":

  • What does "can't wait" mean?

"Can't wait" means being very excited or impatient about something that's going to happen. It's about looking forward to something so much that you wish it would happen sooner.

  • How can I use "can't wait" in a sentence?

You can use "can't wait" to express excitement or anticipation. For example: “'Til next time, take care. I can’t wait to chat with you again."

  • Is "can't wait" used only in positive situations?

Mostly yes. "Can't wait" typically conveys a positive sense of anticipation. However, it can be used sarcastically to mean the opposite, such as, "I can't wait for Monday" when referring to a dreaded workweek.

  • Can you use "can't wait" for something that's not happening soon?

Yes, you can use "can't wait" for events in the distant future. The emphasis is on your excitement or impatience, not necessarily the proximity of the event.

  • Does "can't wait" always mean you're excited?

Generally, yes. "Can't wait" usually means excitement or eagerness. But it can be used sarcastically or ironically to mean the opposite.

  • Is "can't wait" informal?

Yes, "can't wait" is considered a casual expression and is more common in informal speech and writing.

  • Can you use "can't wait" in professional settings?

You can, but it depends on the context. It might be suitable in a business setting to express anticipation for a positive event, like a product launch or team building activity.

  • How do you respond if someone says, "I can't wait"?

If someone says "I can't wait," a typical response might be expressing agreement or sharing in their excitement. For example: “Me neither!” or “I know, it's going to be great!”

  • Is "can't wait" the same as "looking forward to"?

Yes, "can't wait" and "looking forward to" are similar in meaning. Both expressions convey anticipation and excitement for something in the future.

  • Can "can't wait" be considered rude?

Not usually. "Can't wait" is typically seen as a positive expression of anticipation. If used inappropriately or sarcastically, it could be misconstrued, but that would depend on the context and tone.

Final Thoughts About "Can't Wait"

"Can't wait" is all about expressing excitement and eagerness. It's a common phrase that pops up in everyday conversation when we're looking forward to something special.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The idiom "can't wait" tells others you're excited about something coming up, whether soon or in the distant future.
  • People often use it when talking about vacations, special occasions, seeing loved ones, or even just the end of a workday.
  • You'll hear it in casual conversations more than in formal settings, but it can still fit in professional contexts depending on the situation.
  • The phrase doesn't only refer to positive emotions; it can also be used sarcastically, although this is less common.

Whether it's a big event or a simple pleasure, "can't wait" captures that bubbly feeling of anticipation we all experience from time to time. It's a friendly and relatable way to show others what's making you smile.

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