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


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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 However, in the absence of access to Western vaccines, many countries have chosen to go with these alternatives. Kislaya Prasad, Fortune, "Unless the U.S. changes its vaccine policy, the world will look at us like hoarders," 4 Apr. 2021 While Halak and Vladar have been more than capable in Rask’s absence, Cassidy acknowledged the importance of having Rask back on the ice. BostonGlobe.com, "Tuukka Rask’s status unclear after goalie fails to respond to treatment for upper-body injury," 3 Apr. 2021 In the absence of clear information about spread, the fight over the park remains a political one. Kaiser Health News, oregonlive, "COVID-19 fears cast shadow over border park where Canada, Washington state meet," 2 Apr. 2021 In the absence of spectators, referees were less likely to penalize the visiting teams—for example, by giving out yellow or red cards—and the home teams had less match dominance (as measured by the number of direct attempts to score a goal). Diana Kwon, Scientific American, "Home Advantage Doesn’t Require Crowds, COVID Pro Soccer Matches Show," 31 Mar. 2021 Adams conceded that banning private detention centers state-by-state in the absence of a federal ban would create near-term hardships for detainees and their families. Gene Johnson, Star Tribune, "Bill in Washington state would ban private immigration jail," 30 Mar. 2021 Hopefully, municipalities stepping in in the absence of the federal government doesn’t give people a false sense that adequate reparations are being pursued. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Reparations in Evanston, IL took the form of a housing program; could California follow suit?," 30 Mar. 2021 Even in the absence of war, political instability can produce comparable results. Jerome Groopman, The New Yorker, "The Politics of Stopping Pandemics," 29 Mar. 2021 In the absence of indoor customers, restaurants have come to rely on delivery apps, like DoorDash, to stay afloat during the pandemic. NBC News, "Huge ship blocking Suez Canal partially refloated, Derek Chauvin trial gets underway and millennials make their mark in D.C.," 29 Mar. 2021

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

7 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Absence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absence. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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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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