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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for absence


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

The Colts are now exploring other explanations for Luck's absence from the majority of the Colts' training camp. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "It's not the problem, but Andrew Luck's injury begs the question: What is an os trigonum?," 14 Aug. 2019 So the mission behind RUSH: Cinema Strangiato 2019 -- coming to theaters for one night only on Aug. 21 -- is to make up for the Canadian trio's absence. Gary Graff, Billboard, "Watch Live 'Distant Early Warning' From Upcoming Rush Documentary: Premiere," 9 Aug. 2019 According to Reuters, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli responded on Wednesday, insisting his club did nothing wrong and offered no apology for Ronaldo's absence. James Masters For Cnn, CNN, "Cristiano Ronaldo back in the headlines -- without kicking a ball in South Korea," 3 Aug. 2019 There's a fourth character here, most notable for her absence. Ron Charles, Dallas News, "In Richard Russo's 'Chances Are...,' a charming reunion unearths a chilling disappearance," 30 July 2019 Ritchie German had excuses for his family's absence Saturday. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Suspected gunman in Chippewa Falls deaths may have imitated abduction of Jayme Closs," 30 July 2019 The Chargers have no timetable for his return and are preparing for a potentially extended absence. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, "Forrest Lamp has line on Chargers’ starting job after two years of knee problems," 30 July 2019 There’s a fourth character here, most notable for her absence. Ron Charles Critic, Washington Post, "In Richard Russo’s ‘Chances Are,’ a charming reunion unearths a chilling disappearance," 29 July 2019 The scene reconstructs a real video posted on YouTube, and is more effective for the absence of a narratorial voice. The Economist, "A bold Ukrainian film-maker charts the line between fiction and truth," 25 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.

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

27 Aug 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


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.

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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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