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

But in other cases, U.S. absences from treaties has allowed rivals like China or Russia to expand their influence. Washington Post, "In a first, 22 nations condemned China’s repression of Uigher Muslims. Without the U.S.," 12 July 2019 Griner has picked up the team's scoring load in Taurasi's absence, averaging 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 blocks per game while shooting 53.4%. Dana Scott, azcentral, "Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner named starter for WNBA All-Star Game," 11 July 2019 Its deficit is on course to exceed the EU’s threshold of 3% of GDP in 2020, its debt is sky high and, worst of all, it is plagued by a persistent absence of growth. The Economist, "How to defuse the threat that Matteo Salvini poses to the euro," 11 July 2019 Trousdale attributed the mixed bag of results to his club being a bit shorthanded, most notably the absence of 6-foot-3 junior post player Colby Neal, who was out of the lineup with a muscle injury. Scott Akanewich, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Summer school class for basketball," 10 July 2019 In 2000, public health officials declared the disease eliminated from the country (meaning an absence of continuous spread for 12 months, though travelers continued to bring in cases). Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Antivaxxers turn to homeschooling to avoid protecting their kids’ health," 8 July 2019 His dominance over the next decade-plus rocketed golf’s popularity, and his sporadic absence after the 2009 season shook the game to its core. Tad Reeve, Twin Cities, "Tad Reeve: Longtime friends share 3M Open’s spotlight," 8 July 2019 Villanueva said schools notify parents of an issue when a child racks up five unexcused absences in a school year. Indianapolis Star, "11 parents in Johnson County face charges for kids missing school," 5 July 2019 His injury — along with shortstop Jordy Mercer’s extended absence — has been overshadowed by the Tigers’ plethora of starting pitching injuries this season. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' injuries: Grayson Greiner has a setback, Josh Harrison close," 5 July 2019

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

16 Jul 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

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