Word of the Day : December 26, 2017


noun uh-BAY-unss


1 : a state of temporary inactivity : suspension — used chiefly in the phrase in abeyance

2 : a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested

Did You Know?

Abeyance has something in common with yawn. Today, yawn implies sleep or boredom, but years ago it could also signify longing or desire ("Full many men know I that yawn and gape after some fat and rich benefice" —Thomas Hoccleve, 1420). The Old French word for "yawn" was baer, which joined the prefix a- ("in a state or condition of") to form abaer, a verb meaning "to expect" or "await." There followed Anglo-French abeyance, which referred to a state of expectation—specifically, a person's expectation of inheriting a title or property. But when we adopted abeyance into English in the 16th century, we applied the expectation to the property itself: a property or title "in abeyance" is in temporary limbo, waiting to be claimed by a rightful heir or owner.


The misdemeanor charges are in abeyance while the suspect is being prosecuted for the felony.

"The 1950–53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, so hostilities have merely been in abeyance." — Rick Gladstone and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2017

Word Family Quiz

What word is related to Old French baer and refers to a slanted surface or edge on a piece of wood?



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