noun abey·ance \ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s\

Definition of abeyance

  1. 1 :  a state of temporary inactivity :  suspension —used chiefly in the phrase in abeyance … new contracts on all but one existing mine … are in abeyance pending the outcome of a government inquiry to be carried out into Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle. — Vimala Sarma a plan that is currently being held in abeyance

  2. 2 :  a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested an estate in abeyance


play \-ənt\ adjective

Examples of abeyance in a sentence

  1. <our weekend plans were held in abeyance until we could get a weather forecast>

Did You Know?

Abeyance has something in common with "yawn." Today, "yawn" implies sleep or boredom, but years ago it could also signify longing or desire ("Full many men know I that yawn and gape after some fat and rich benefice"-Thomas Hoccleve, 1420). The Old French word for "yawn" was "baer," which joined the prefix a- ("in a state or condition of") to form "abaer," a verb meaning "to expect" or "await." There followed Anglo-French abeyance, which referred to a state of expectation-specifically, a person's expectation of inheriting a title or property. But when we adopted "abeyance" into English in the 16th century, we applied the expectation to the property itself: a property or title "in abeyance" is in temporary limbo, waiting to be claimed by a rightful heir or owner.

Origin and Etymology of abeyance

Anglo-French, from Old French abaer to expect, await, literally, to gape, from a- + baer to gape, yawn — more at bay

First Known Use: 1556

Medical Dictionary


noun abey·ance \ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s\

Medical Definition of abeyance

  1. :  temporary inactivity or suspension (as of function or a symptom)

Law Dictionary


noun abey·ance \ə-ˈbā-əns\

Legal Definition of abeyance

  1. 1 :  a lapse in the succession of property during which there is no person in whom title to the property is vested —usually used with in the estate was in abeyance

  2. 2 :  temporary inactivity or suppression :  cessation or suspension for a period of time —usually used with in or into to hold the entry of summary judgment in abeyance — J. H. Friedenthal et al.

Origin and Etymology of abeyance

Middle French abeance expectation (of a title or claimant), from abaer to expect, from a-, prefix stressing result + baer to gape, aim at

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up abeyance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a supporter of a cause, belief, etc.

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • snowflake-closeup
  • Which is a synonym of imprecate?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.