ab·​sent-mind·​ed ˌab-sənt-ˈmīn-dəd How to pronounce absent-minded (audio)
variants or less commonly absentminded
: lost in thought and unaware of one's surroundings or actions : preoccupied
was too absent-minded to notice what time it was
: tending to forget or fail to notice things : given to absence of mind (see absence sense 3)
an absent-minded person prone to forgetting appointments
: indicative of or resulting from preoccupation or absence of mind
gave an absent-minded reply
absentmindedly adverb
or less commonly absent-mindedly
absentmindedness noun
or less commonly absent-mindedness
Choose the Right Synonym for absent-minded

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-minded in a Sentence

Her absentminded husband forgot their anniversary. She did the chores in an absentminded way.
Recent Examples on the Web And Jason Heil grounds the show’s most whimsical character, the absent-minded sorcerer Merlyn. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 June 2024 But in the realm of the happenstance gesture—the absent-minded tug of a shirt collar, maybe, or a glance so fleeting the camera could almost miss it—Gosling may be Brando’s truest heir. Stephanie Zacharek, TIME, 1 May 2024 The Germans were voting, in the absent-minded way of democratic voters everywhere, for easy reassurances, for stability, with classes siding against their historical enemies. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 18 Mar. 2024 Believe it or not, Lewis brings depth and nuance to a form that is usually cheerful or absent-minded. Shane O’Neill, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 The ad, from creative ad agency Special Group, also shows regular people making comically absent-minded goofs. Variety, NBC News, 11 Feb. 2024 Other details in the report could add to the portrait of an aging, absent-minded president. Devlin Barrett, Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2024 But magnet faculty enjoyed a great deal of autonomy—Anstead, who developed a reputation among Core students for being gentle and brilliant, if a bit absentminded, gave teachers free rein over their classes. Longreads, 1 Sep. 2022 But as happens to absentminded professors worldwide (at least according to my dear wife), my mind started to wander from the task at hand to something related to plants. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 6 Mar. 2020

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

Word History

First Known Use

1809, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of absent-minded was in 1809

Dictionary Entries Near absent-minded

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


ab·​sent·​mind·​ed ˌab-sənt-ˈmīn-dəd How to pronounce absentminded (audio)
: lost in thought and unaware of one's surroundings or actions
absentmindedly adverb
absentmindedness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on absent-minded

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