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

Failing that, a foreclosure case filed by the town — but held in abeyance so a site plan could be developed — will go forward. David Lyons, sun-sentinel.com, "Lauderdale-by-the-Sea resort plan would cut off beach street," 26 June 2019 Perhaps the worst feature of the Internet age is that skepticism and criticism of advertising’s moral and political effect on society has gone into abeyance, even as advertising has become even more central to the business model of digital media. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "The Move to Reclaim Privacy," 18 June 2019 As a result of that investigation, Best demoted Poblocki from sergeant to officer last year and suspended him for 15 days without pay, with five days held in abeyance. Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, "Sources: Seattle police chief feared she could be overturned on a technicality if she fired officer who lied," 13 June 2019 Even if the two sides manage to put punitive tariffs in abeyance, harder to resolve will be many of the Chinese trade practices the U.S. says are unfair, including the coercive transfer of technology. Trefor Moss, WSJ, "Boeing Flies Close to Trade Tussle With New Facility in China," 15 Dec. 2018 Right after the presidents’ dinnertime parlay, Chinese officials said the two sides agreed to put tariffs in abeyance to negotiate a settlement but offered few other details then and in the days since. WSJ, "China Breaks Its Silence on 90-Day U.S. Tariff Truce," 5 Dec. 2018 The merger would have held that in abeyance for three years. Joshua Stewart, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Merger of two big Southern California food worker unions hits snag," 12 July 2018 The Obama presidency put some of those factional fights into abeyance, but Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign renewed infighting and scrambled the factional lines. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Netroots Nation, explained," 2 Aug. 2018 The judges’ comments came as the court voted yesterday to hold the case in abeyance for another 60 days. Niina Heikkinen, Scientific American, "Court Becoming Impatient with EPA Over Clean Power Plan," 27 June 2018

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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Statistics for abeyance

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for abeyance

The first known use of abeyance was circa 1530

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More Definitions for abeyance



Financial Definition of abeyance

What It Is

In the strictest terms, abeyance means temporary inactivity. In the finance world, the term generally refers to unknown ownership.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe owns an empty lot in City XYZ. He dies without a will or trust in place. John's brother, cousin, uncle and best friend all claim that John told them they could inherit the lot.

While the matter goes through probate, the lot is in abeyance. That is, it is unclear who owns the property. Accordingly, it is unclear who is responsible for the upcoming property tax payment or for the outcome of the lawsuit John was facing from a person who was hurt while trespassing on John's property.

Why It Matters

Courts often deem assets in abeyance when ownership is unclear. People also set up trusts that do not convey assets until the beneficiary fulfills certain obligations (for instance, no money for the grandson until he completes college or reaches age 30).

Source: Investing Answers


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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More from Merriam-Webster on abeyance

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abeyance

Spanish Central: Translation of abeyance

Nglish: Translation of abeyance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abeyance for Arabic Speakers

Comments on abeyance

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


to make a temporary encampment

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