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 abeyance (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on the Web Those pleas are held in abeyance by the court, according to their attorney Greg Veralrud, and will be withdrawn upon their successful completion of the terms of their diversion agreements. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 7 Sep. 2021 The discipline will be held in abeyance until the process is complete. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, 24 Aug. 2021 The discipline will be held in abeyance until the process is complete. Nick Piecoro, USA TODAY, 24 Aug. 2021 The actors clutched their scripts while members of the hair-and-makeup team attended to them, attempting to keep sweat and grime in abeyance. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 23 Aug. 2021 My whole life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is being held in abeyance now, while Elton John is singing in Leningrad. Mikhail Iossel, The New Yorker, 12 Aug. 2021 Those investigations can take years, during which the individual plaintiffs’ cases are placed in abeyance so as not to interfere with the government probes. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2021 Comerica has asked that its state tax appeal be held in abeyance until the federal case is settled — a common move in such proceedings. Jon Bream, Star Tribune, 25 July 2021 Then the new monarch can decide whether to bestow it on his brother or another member of the family — or hold it in abeyance for a time in the future. Simon Perry, PEOPLE.com, 12 July 2021

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

15 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abeyance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abeyance. Accessed 21 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on abeyance

Nglish: Translation of abeyance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abeyance for Arabic Speakers


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