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 mindblamed the error on absence of mind

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Synonyms for absence


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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 absence of participation from majority Native American counties, and rural, poor, black counties in the South, is troubling. Michael Mandiberg, The Atlantic, "Mapping Wikipedia," 23 Feb. 2020 That could definitely be attributed to the injury absences of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Zion Williamson. Gary Washburn, BostonGlobe.com, "Kevin Garnett has plenty of stories from the NBA. Now it’s time to tell them," 22 Feb. 2020 Inspections in China typically slow down in January around the time of Chinese New Year, but the absence of on-site safety and quality checks will now extend into March. Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY, "FDA: China's coronavirus might disrupt 'critical medical products' including drugs and devices," 19 Feb. 2020 At that time, the absence was due to what the team described as a personal matter. Pat Brennan, Cincinnati.com, "FC Cincinnati's Darren Mattocks facing two felony charges in Pennsylvania," 16 Feb. 2020 One shop assistant at an Italian luxury house, who asked not to be named discussing store business, said the absence of Chinese shoppers had been keenly felt. Elizabeth Paton, New York Times, "Shuttered Stores, Fewer Tourists: Luxury Feels Coronavirus Effects," 14 Feb. 2020 In the debates in New York, as well as those in other states, both sides have been arguing in the relative absence of data, without acknowledging this deficit. Robert Klitzman, STAT, "Paying gestational carriers should be legal in all states," 12 Feb. 2020 In a wide-ranging interview, Posey addressed his progress and expectations and expressed his feelings on the return of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval and the absence of Bruce Bochy and Madison Bumgarner. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Giants Splash: Buster Posey on why he’s encouraged about 2020," 12 Feb. 2020 Wolf said Broadview Heights parents started complaining to him about the absence of their city name in district club names immediately after he was first elected in 2013. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Brecksville-Broadview Heights school groups should include Broadview Heights in their names, school board president says," 11 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for absence

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for absence

Last Updated

26 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Absence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absence. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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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

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