Driving around in a small area (such as a parking lot). This is usually done because of lack of parking spaces or lack of desirable parking spaces. Often used while waiting to pick somebody up or for a parking space to become available.
Derived from: Aviation term. A repetitive route flown by an aircraft which keeps it in the same area. A holding pattern is used when an aircraft (commonly a commercial airliner) cannot land at an airport, often simply because there are no available runways. In this circumstance, the aircraft will enter a holding pattern while it awaits its turn to land.
It is believed that this term, used in the automotive context, was first used by Steve Packard, however, if anyone else has used this term previously to describe driving in cirles, feel free to post.
When I dropped Mike off to pick up the pizza, there were no good parking spaces, so I went into a holding pattern until he came out.
I didn’t want to double park while waiting for Sue to come out of the store, so I went into a holding pattern, driving around the block until I saw her emerge.