Word Confusion: Staid versus Stayed

Posted June 15, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 11 October 2017

This was an unexpected encounter, lol. Staid is not a word I come across that often, and when I read that “she staid her hand”, well, I cracked up. Let alone that staid is an adjective and not a verb, I tried to imagine a boring and respectable hand, but all I could see was liver spots. I…I…I don’t think that’s what the author meant *she shakes her head sadly with a snort and a laugh*

Now if the character had stayed her hand, well I could only feel lucky for the poor sap she was about to hit.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Staid Stayed
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A witness testifies in the Judges' Trial in Nuremberg, Germany.

“Justice Case Testimonial” by an unknown, but likely was a U.S. Army photographer, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a staid group in this courtroom.

Neckar River

“Zwingenberg, Neckar River” is Vitold Muratov’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

A bridge stayed for stability over the Neckar River in Zwingenberg.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective Verb 1, 2, intransitive & transitive 3

Past tense and past participle of the verb, stay




Verb, intransitive:
Remain in the same or specified place or position

  • [Stay for/to] Delay leaving so as to join in an activity
  • [Stay down; of food] Remain in the stomach, rather than be thrown up as vomit

To continue in the place or condition specified

  • Endure
  • Last


[Of a person] Live, dwell, or reside, especially temporarily as a visitor or guest (for the time specified)

[Scottish & South African] Live permanently

[Archaic] Wait a moment in order to allow someone time to think or speak

[Archaic] Make a stand

[Archaic] Cease doing something

[Informal] Remain in a hand by meeting the bet or raise

Verb, transitive:
Hinder, impede, restrain, or detain

Stop, delay, halt, or prevent something

  • Suspend, delay, or postpone judicial proceedings
  • Refrain from pressing charges
  • Assuage, satisfy, or appease hunger for a short time
  • Curb; check

[Rare] To quell or allay strife, etc.

[Often used with out] Remain through or during

Be able to last through

[Archaic] To await

[Literary] Support or prop up 2

[Nautical] Secure or steady a mast by means of stays 3

  • Brace or support with a stay or stays
It was such a staid law firm.

A lovely girl, but so staid and sedate that she was dull.

Verb, intransitive:
She stayed here for the night.

Jenny stayed at home with their young child.

He stayed with the firm as a consultant.

She stayed for lunch.

In spite of the gore, his lunch stayed down.

She stayed calm throughout the ordeal.

He stayed in power through the tactics he used.

I stayed out of trouble until I hit my teens.

The girls stayed with friends.

He stayed his hand a moment.

We stayed at home to watch a Star Wars marathon.

He stayed healthy despite the doctors.

Verb, transitive:
The order was stayed.

The judge stayed the execution.

We stayed the pangs of hunger with a rabbit and some trout.

Patton stayed the German armies.

Marion stayed for the entire project.

He stayed the week out despite the company.

They stayed in character throughout their impromptu performance. 2

The tower is stayed with cables. 3

Phrasal Verb
stay on
stay over (of a guest or visitor)
stay up
stay with
History of the Word:
From the mid-16th century and an archaic past participle of stay. 1 Late Middle English from Anglo-Norman French estai- from the stem of the Old French ester and from the Latin stare meaning to stand.

2 Middle English staien from the Old French estaiier, from estaie meaning a support of Germanic origin.

3 Old English stæg is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch stag from a base, meaning be firm.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Death by Burning is courtesy of Wikiwand. Svmeletij by Unk (Askalon scan) is under the GFDL or the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Stop Sign in Zimbabwe is ZooFari’s own work and is in the public domain. All three are via Wikimedia Commons.