ab·​sence | \ ˈab-sən(t)s How to pronounce absence (audio) \

Definition of absence

1 : a state or condition in which something expected, wanted, or looked for is not present or does not exist : a state or condition in which something is absent an absence [=lack] of detail In the absence of reform [=without reform], progress will be slow.
2a : a failure to be present at a usual or expected place : the state of being absent an unexplained absence from work His absence was noted by the teacher. The meeting continued in his absence. [=without him being present] They were conspicuous by their absence. [=it was very noticeable that they were not present]
b : the period of time that one is absent She recently returned to work after a long absence.
3 : inattention to present surroundings or occurrences usually used in the phrase absence of mind blamed the error on absence of mind

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Synonyms for absence


lack, need, needfulness, want

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Examples of absence in a Sentence

Moreover, he has this field pretty much to himself, for while there are many popular writers on science, there are few on engineering, an absence that is all the more remarkable since without engineering our technological world could not function. — Witold Rybczynski, New York Review of Books, 9 June 2005 The 1990 census revealed that 21 percent of 25-year-olds were living with one or both parents, up from 15 percent in 1970. Some young people are not moving out at all before their mid-20s, but many more are doing an extra rotation through the family home after a temporary or lengthy absence. — Paul McFedries, Word Spy, 2004 Called the Galápagos of the East, the Seychelles Islands, in the Indian Ocean, have been inhabited for only the past 200 years. In humanity's absence, nature ran wild: Tens of thousands of giant tortoises still lumber along the beaches, and a palm forest shelters … rare black parrots. Audubon, September-October 1998 Only five to six inches long and weighing less than two ounces, the elf owl is the smallest bird of prey in the world. Its bobbed tail, white "eyebrows," and absence of ear tufts give this tiny mothlike predator its impish appearance. — Ken Lamerton, Bird Watcher's Digest, May/June 1996 The products showed a remarkable absence of defects. He had many absences from work. I expected to see her and was surprised by her absence. She returned to the company after a long absence.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The 2019 Oscars have officially begun, and in the absence of a host, the ceremony kicked off with a musical number in lieu of the usual opening monologue. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Queen Opened the 2019 Oscars and Brought the Entire Audience To Its Feet," 25 Feb. 2019 In the absence of a cure, self-care is often recommended as the first line of defense. Nadia Berenstein, SELF, "Holiday Parties Bring Out the Worst of My Rosacea," 19 Dec. 2018 The decision to make a sequel to the brutal 2015 drama raised some eyebrows when first announced, especially because of the absence of Emily Blunt, one of the first film’s stars. Andrew R. Chow, New York Times, "‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ Earns $19 Million, Beating Expectations," 1 July 2018 After a prolonged absence from the bench, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back at work. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Back on the Bench, and Seems as Healthy as Ever," 20 Feb. 2019 Now, after an absence, Beatty is back on the New York fashion week calendar with a solo project, but much has changed in the two year since Suno closed. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Rentrayage Is the New, Sustainably-Minded Solo Project From Erin Beatty, Formerly of Suno," 5 Feb. 2019 Spotify is returning to Roku’s streaming players and Roku TVs beginning today after a fairly long absence from the platform. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Spotify returns to Roku devices starting today," 31 Oct. 2018 With the launch of the Pixel Slate, Google is back in the tablet game after a three-year absence. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Google announces its first tablet in three years, the Pixel Slate," 9 Oct. 2018 After a five-year absence and lots of memes made from that one iconic line, Madison Montgomery is back in all of her Coven glory — and fans reacted accordingly on Twitter. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, ""American Horror Story: Apocalypse" Brings Back Madison Montgomery to Deliver Her Iconic Quote," 27 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'absence.' 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 absence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for absence

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin absentia, noun derivative of absent-, absens absent entry 1

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Statistics for absence

Last Updated

7 May 2019

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Time Traveler for absence

The first known use of absence was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for absence


ab·​sence | \ ˈab-səns How to pronounce absence (audio) \

Kids Definition of absence

1 : a failure to be present at a usual or expected place
2 : lack entry 2 sense 1, want There was an absence of affection between members of the family.

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More from Merriam-Webster on absence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for absence

Spanish Central: Translation of absence

Nglish: Translation of absence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of absence for Arabic Speakers

Comments on absence

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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