abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Definition of abeyance

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 Sarmaa plan that is currently being held in abeyance
2 : a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested an estate in abeyance

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Other Words from abeyance

abeyant \ ə-​ˈbā-​ənt How to pronounce abeyant (audio) \ adjective

When should you use abeyance?

The Latin root of abeyance suggests one in a state of wonder or shock: baer (or baier) means "to have the mouth wide open, gape, pant." The anatomical specificity of the root, however, was not maintained in the Anglo-French words that link our word to it. Abaer (or abair), which means only "to open wide," developed into abeyaunce, which refers to a very particular kind of figurative opening: "absence of a claimant or owner, lapse in succession." The English word abeyance has both technical and general applications: a property or title "in abeyance" is in temporary limbo, waiting to be claimed by a rightful heir or owner, and plans that are "in abeyance" are waiting to be acted on.

Examples of abeyance in a Sentence

our weekend plans were held in abeyance until we could get a weather forecast
Recent Examples on the Web If the novel coronavirus did not have its origins in the order of things now in abeyance—other possibilities are even darker—that order was certainly a huge factor in its spread. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, "What Kind of Country Do We Want?," 27 May 2020 Tens of thousands more are being held in abeyance by plaintiffs’ lawyers under agreements with Bayer, people familiar with the negotiations said. Tim Loh, Fortune, "Bayer reaches verbal deal to settle up to 85,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits," 25 May 2020 Sullivan usurped judicial power by holding the Justice Department motion to dismiss the Flynn case in abeyance while seeking third-party opinions on how to proceed. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "White House Report Card: Judge’s odd move in Flynn case could help Trump," 16 May 2020 The world hasn’t stopped, but our human social lives are in abeyance. Claire Messud, WSJ, "A Moment for Inward Pilgrimages," 30 Apr. 2020 Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans should hold the two pending articles in abeyance, or vote to dismiss them without prejudice to the House’s revoting them when its impeachment inquiry is finally concluded. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Postpone the Impeachment Trial Until the House Finishes Investigating," 15 Jan. 2020 As of last week, the union is negotiating with the hope of reaching an agreement by the end of January, and the administration’s demand for yellow dog contracts is, for the moment, in abeyance. Walter Johnson, The New York Review of Books, "How Harvard Aims to Muzzle Unions," 27 Jan. 2020 Stonecutting had fallen into abeyance during the early Middle Ages, when blocks from old edifices were reused. Inés Monteira, National Geographic, "Majestic medieval churches ascended along Christian pilgrims' paths," 17 Dec. 2019 Kentucky has held her disciplinary case in abeyance pending the resolution of the Ohio case. Kevin Grasha, Cincinnati.com, "NKY attorney who passed $11 to jailed boyfriend given stayed suspension," 20 Nov. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of abeyance

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for abeyance

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

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Time Traveler for abeyance

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The first known use of abeyance was circa 1530

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Last Updated

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abeyance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abeyance. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for abeyance


abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Medical Definition of abeyance

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


abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-əns How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Legal Definition of abeyance

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 : 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

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