absence

noun
ab·​sence | \ ˈab-sən(t)s \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for absence

Synonyms

lack, need, needfulness, want

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

This glaring—and now growing—absence of reciprocity has caused a range of Americans involved in U.S.-China relations to reconsider the viability of engagement. Orville Schell And Larry Diamond, WSJ, "China Gets Its Message to Americans but Doesn’t Want to Reciprocate," 21 Dec. 2018 Others acknowledged the absence of Debby, paying tribute to her iconic portrayal of Grandma Aggie. Tess Garcia, Teen Vogue, "The Cast of the Disney Channel Orignial Movie "Halloweentown" Reunited," 14 Oct. 2018 Spotting a suspicious push notification, or even noticing the sudden absence of them, can be suggestive. 2. Kim Komando, Fox News, "8 clever ways that tech can reveal a cheating spouse," 15 Sep. 2018 Mapping his potential commute illustrates the absence of a direct, safe and simple crosstown bike route in Los Angeles. Mark Potts, latimes.com, "LeBron James likes to bike to work. We tested his route — and it’s dangerous," 9 July 2018 Some immigration attorneys, though, have expressed doubt at the administration's willingness or ability to reunite all of the families within the timeframe, noting the absence of a public, detailed process for reunification. NBC News, "U.S. is ordered to reunite migrant families. Now what?," 27 June 2018 This includes the absence of former characters and addition of live-action characters with detailed backstories, like Farrell with his character Farrier. Omar Sanchez, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Dumbo': Everything to Know About Disney's Live-Action Remake Directed by Tim Burton," 27 June 2018 When the hospital’s chief of staff questioned the unexcused absence of the department, VA officials reassigned her and imposed a gag order on her. Anne Saker, Cincinnati.com, "Cincinnati VA turmoil: 3 patients sent elsewhere when surgery department closed for 4 days," 11 June 2018 In the absence of habitation, the mapmaker had turned to topographical features to fill up the empty cartographic space. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "Going Off-Grid in Namibia," 21 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about absence

Statistics for absence

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for absence

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for absence

absence

noun
ab·​sence | \ ˈab-səns \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to gather or build up little by little

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!