How do I add a delay in a JavaScript loop?

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I would like to add a delay/sleep inside a while loop:

I tried it like this:


for(var start = 1; start < 10; start++) {
  setTimeout(function () {
  }, 3000);

Only the first scenario is true: after showing alert('hi'), it will be waiting for 3 seconds then alert('hello') will be displayed but then alert('hello') will be repeatedly constantly.

What I would like is that after alert('hello') is shown 3 seconds after alert('hi') then it needs to wait for 3 seconds for the second time alert('hello') and so on.

First answer

The setTimeout() function is non-blocking and will return immediately. Therefore your loop will iterate very quickly and it will initiate 3-second timeout triggers one after the other in quick succession. That is why your first alerts pops up after 3 seconds, and all the rest follow in succession without any delay.

You may want to use something like this instead:

var i = 1;                     //  set your counter to 1

function myLoop () {           //  create a loop function
   setTimeout(function () {    //  call a 3s setTimeout when the loop is called
      alert('hello');          //  your code here
      i++;                     //  increment the counter
      if (i < 10) {            //  if the counter < 10, call the loop function
         myLoop();             //  ..  again which will trigger another 
      }                        //  ..  setTimeout()
   }, 3000)

myLoop();                      //  start the loop

You could also neaten it up, by using a self invoking function, passing the number of iterations as an argument:

(function myLoop (i) {          
   setTimeout(function () {   
      alert('hello');          //  your code here                
      if (--i) myLoop(i);      //  decrement i and call myLoop again if i > 0
   }, 3000)
})(10);                        //  pass the number of iterations as an argument

Second answer

If using ES6, you could use let to achieve this:

for (let i=1; i<10; i++) {
    setTimeout( function timer(){
        alert("hello world");
    }, i*3000 );

What let does is declare i for each iteration, not the loop. This way, what is passed to setTimeout is exactly what we want.

Third answer

Since ES7 theres a better way to await a loop:

// Returns a Promise that resolves after "ms" Milliseconds
function timer(ms) {
 return new Promise(res => setTimeout(res, ms));

async function load () { // We need to wrap the loop into an async function for this to work
  for (var i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
    await timer(3000); // then the created Promise can be awaited


When the engine reaches the await part, it sets a timeout and halts the execution of the async function. Then when the timeout completes, execution continues at that point. That’s quite useful as you can delay (1) nested loops, (2) conditionally, (3) nested functions:

async function task(i) { // 3
  await timer(1000);
  console.log(`Task ${i} done!`);

async function main() {
  for(let i = 0; i < 100; i+= 10) {
    for(let j = 0; j < 10; j++) { // 1
      if(j % 2) { // 2
        await task(i + j);

function timer(ms) { return new Promise(res => setTimeout(res, ms)); }

Reference on MDN

While ES7 is now supported by NodeJS and modern browsers, you might want to transpile it with BabelJS so that it runs everywhere.

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