abey·​ance ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio)
: 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 Sarmaa plan that is currently being held in abeyance
: a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested
an estate in abeyance
abeyant adjective

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When should you use abeyance?

Abeyance comes from Old French baer, meaning "to have the mouth wide open," which was joined with the prefix a- to form abaer, a verb meaning "to open wide," and, in later Anglo-French usage, "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. The word, in English, was then applied for 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.

Example Sentences

our weekend plans were held in abeyance until we could get a weather forecast
Recent Examples on the Web The parties filed a motion today informing the Surface Transportation Board that a settlement agreement has been reached and asking that the case be held in abeyance while the parties execute the various conditions of that settlement agreement. al, 22 Nov. 2022 And there is the matter of what would become of Earn and Van (and Lottie), a question posed at the very beginning of the series and held in abeyance through much of what followed. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2022 The commission has recommended the Arkansas Supreme Court suspend Bourne for 90 days, with 75 days held in abeyance for a year on the condition the judge follows remedial measures. Will Langhorne, Arkansas Online, 1 Aug. 2022 For me, the puzzle’s delights continue to reside in the contradictions of the grid, holding the limitless signifying power of language in temporary abeyance. Anna Shechtman, The New Yorker, 20 Dec. 2021 Plans to build a next-generation frigate at a second yard, which Ingalls had a good chance of winning, now are in abeyance, as are plans to build a next-generation destroyer. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 13 May 2022 In effect, all pending cases in various courts have been held in abeyance. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 10 May 2022 This is science fiction that keeps its science largely in abeyance, as dark matter for a story about loneliness, grief and finding purpose. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2022 Three weeks later, Dayspring and his business associates addressed the Board of Supervisors during the public comment period, urging the county to again extend the abeyance. Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abeyance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from Anglo-French abeyaunce "absence of a claimant or owner, lapse in succession," from abaer, abair "to open wide" (from a-, prefix in transitive verbs—from Latin ad- ad- — + baer, baier "to have the mouth wide open, gape, pant," from Vulgar Latin *batāre, perhaps of imitative origin) + -ance -ance

First Known Use

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of abeyance was circa 1530


Dictionary Entries Near abeyance

Cite this Entry

“Abeyance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abeyance. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



abey·​ance ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio)
: a temporary interruption of activity
plans held in abeyance
abeyant adjective

Medical Definition



abey·​ance ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio)
: temporary inactivity or suspension (as of function or a symptom)

Legal Definition



abey·​ance ə-ˈbā-əns How to pronounce abeyance (audio)
: 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
: 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.

History and Etymology for abeyance

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

More from Merriam-Webster on abeyance

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