ab·​sence ˈab-sən(t)s How to pronounce absence (audio)
: 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.
: 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]
: the period of time that one is absent
She recently returned to work after a long absence.
: inattention to present surroundings or occurrences
usually used in the phrase absence of mind
blamed the error on absence of mind

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 In the absence of gravity, fluids shift toward the head. Rachael Seidler, Discover Magazine, 22 Sep. 2023 The absence of information left him unburdened by preconceived ideas. Pamela Chelin, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Despite the absence of stringent regulations, Swedes opted to cancel events like birthday parties, adopted remote working, and practiced physical distancing. Lars Jonung, National Review, 21 Sep. 2023 End of carousel This show is a two-hander, so the absence of works by Degas, who died 34 years after Manet, from the exhibition’s final gallery stands out. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 21 Sep. 2023 But that world, in comics, was able to do more, for more readers, in the absence of competition. Stephanie Burt, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2023 Long Covid does not seem to be self-resolving, in the sense of spontaneous recovery or recovery in the absence of a cure or a treatment that’s been validated. Elizabeth Cooney, STAT, 20 Sep. 2023 The Branch Ergonomic Chair was complicated to build; assembly took double the time of most of the other chairs due to the many parts and the absence of instructions. Jenni Gritters, wsj.com, 20 Sep. 2023 There’s a lot of bad and incorrect information out there and in the absence of accurate information, people tend to take the worst-case scenario and run with it. Dave Epstein, BostonGlobe.com, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'absence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near absence

Cite this Entry

“Absence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absence. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ab·​sence ˈab-sən(t)s How to pronounce absence (audio)
: the state of being absent
: the time that one is absent
: want entry 2 sense 1a, lack
absence of detail

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