Meaning 1 ►▼
Hunting dogs barking at game or prey until the hunter can arrive
The dogs held the stag at bay until the hunters came.
Meaning 2 ►▼
to keep something or someone stopped awhile until something else can be done
They held the drug dealer at bay until the police could come.
From a French medieval sports term, "abai", meaning to bark at game and hold it for the hunter.