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ab·​sent ˈab-sənt How to pronounce absent (audio)
: not present at a usual or expected place : missing
was absent from class today
sharing memories of absent friends
She was conspicuously absent [=her absence was very noticeable] at the meeting.
: not existing : lacking
… danger in a situation where power is absentM. H. Trytten
a gene that occurs in mammals but is absent in birds
: showing a lack of attention to what is happening or being said : not attentive
had an absent look on her face
an absent reply
absently adverb
He replied absently to her question.


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ab·​sent ab-ˈsent How to pronounce absent (audio)
absented; absenting; absents

transitive verb

: to keep (oneself) away
He absented himself from the meeting.


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ab·​sent ˈab-sənt How to pronounce absent (audio)
US, formal
: in the absence of (something) : without
Absent any objections, the plan will proceed.
Choose the Right Synonym for absent

abstracted, preoccupied, absent, absent-minded, distracted mean inattentive to what claims or demands consideration.

abstracted implies absorption of the mind in something other than one's surroundings, and often suggests reflection on weighty matters.

walking about with an abstracted air

preoccupied often implies having one's attention so taken up by thoughts as to neglect others.

too preoccupied with her debts to enjoy the meal

absent stresses inability to fix the mind on present concerns due more to mental wandering than to concentration on other matters.

an absent stare

absent-minded implies that the mind is fixed elsewhere and often refers to a habit of abstractedness.

so absent-minded, he's been known to wear mismatched shoes

distracted may suggest an inability to concentrate caused by worry, sorrow, or anxiety.

was too distracted by grief to continue working

Examples of absent in a Sentence

Adjective an absent father who is not home most of the time a gene that occurs in mammals but that is absent in birds a landscape in which vegetation is almost entirely absent He made an absent reply to her question as he continued to watch the TV. Preposition Absent any objections, the plan will proceed. Absent such an agreement we can go no further.
Recent Examples on the Web
The Mountain West was conspicuously absent from the announcement. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Apr. 2024 Notably absent from the list is Chevy Chase, who has a long-standing, public feud with the show and McHale (among others). Dustin Nelson, EW.com, 9 Apr. 2024 More often, her takes were fierce, energetic and charged with a vitality conspicuously absent from the contemporary connectors. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2024 In the sweetest surprise of the show, Springsteen brought out his wife and longtime E Street Band member, Patti Scialfa, who has been mostly absent from this tour, to share vocals on two unexpected songs. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 5 Apr. 2024 Even as Instagram-worthy wildflowers bloom across the state, the blazing orange flower has been conspicuously absent from some of its usual haunts — including the reserve in Lancaster and the city of Lake Elsinore. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2024 The key brain structure that allows mammals to form memories — the hippocampus — is absent in fish. Lily Carey, Discover Magazine, 2 Apr. 2024 That his village school had only one teacher, who was absent whenever he was needed to help with the harvest, and that this teacher was also a wrestler, earning extra rupees from matches in nearby villages. James Wood, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2024 Among those notably absent were Kate Middleton, Prince William and their children — Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5 — who did not attend following Kate's recent public announcement of her cancer diagnosis. Erin Hill, Peoplemag, 31 Mar. 2024
At current rates of cash burn, and absent additional financing acrobatics, SunPower will likely end up strapped again later this year. Christopher Helman, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 But absent a weakening labor market, price growth may be stuck above the 2% target, given wage and home price increases that remain elevated, the Citi analysts said. Rob Wile, NBC News, 13 Feb. 2024 Ultimately, there is only so much Samsung can do absent its own OS. Zak Doffman, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2024 But absent a cessation of hostilities, the war could convulse the region, bringing in anti-Israel factions based in Lebanon and Syria, and spawning an unprecedented flow of Palestinian refugees into Egypt. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 22 Dec. 2023 The big question here is whether Microsoft has control over OpenAI, absent an official acquisition. Rachyl Jones, Fortune, 8 Dec. 2023 And absent a war with Iran or a resurgence of ISIS, this trend will continue. Steven Simon and Adam Weinstein, Foreign Affairs, 27 Sep. 2023 His father then absented himself from the boy’s life, leaving him nothing upon his death a few years later, when Pratt was thirteen. Hazlitt, 6 Sep. 2023 Investors are demanding historically high yields for US Treasury notes that mature in July, which by some estimates is when the United States will default on its debt, absent any legislative action. Elisabeth Buchwald, CNN, 20 Apr. 2023
Under no circumstances should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed absent a full and complete investigation. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, 27 Sep. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'absent.' 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 absent-, absens, present participle of abesse "to be away, be absent," from ab- ab- + -sens, present participle (attested only with prefixes) of esse "to be" — more at is entry 1


Middle English absenten, borrowed from Anglo-French absenter, borrowed from Late Latin absentāre, verbal derivative of Latin absent-, absens absent entry 1


derivative of absent entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1944, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near absent

Cite this Entry

“Absent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absent. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
ab·​sent ˈab-sənt How to pronounce absent (audio)
: not present or attending : missing
: not existing
enthusiasm was absent
: lost in thought : preoccupied
absently adverb


2 of 2 verb
ab·​sent ab-ˈsent How to pronounce absent (audio)
: to keep (oneself) away

More from Merriam-Webster on absent

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