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 Sentencing on Androsac’s remaining felony charges will be held in abeyance pending the completion of a diversion program. Sheridan Hendrix, The Enquirer, "Former OU Sigma Pi members plead guilty to multiple charges in death of pledge Collin Wiant," 26 Aug. 2020 That protean spirit imbued the French Revolution, with its multiple constitutions, its constitution placed in abeyance, its insurrectionary Paris Commune, and its bestowing of absolute power on the Committee of Public Safety. John D. Hagen, National Review, "The Gospel of Jean-Jacques," 20 Aug. 2020 It will be held in abeyance until the appeal can be heard. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Rangers manager Chris Woodward suspended for Tuesday’s game; Ian Gibaut suspended three games," 18 Aug. 2020 When the threat of revolt was in abeyance, slave owners would seek to institute checks on the paddy rollers’ violent and destructive excesses—until, that is, the fear of a slave rebellion surfaced again. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, The New Republic, "Fear of a Black Uprising," 13 Aug. 2020 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

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of abeyance was circa 1530

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Cite this Entry

“Abeyance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abeyance. Accessed 25 Nov. 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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