abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Definition of abeyance

1 : a state of temporary inactivity : suspension used chiefly in the phrase in abeyance … new contracts on all but one existing mine … are in abeyance pending the outcome of a government inquiry to be carried out into Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle.— Vimala Sarmaa plan that is currently being held in abeyance
2 : a lapse in succession during which there is no person in whom a title is vested an estate in abeyance

Other Words from abeyance

abeyant \ ə-​ˈbā-​ənt How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \ adjective

When should you use abeyance?

Abeyance comes from Old French baer, meaning "to have the mouth wide open," which was joined with the prefix a- to form abaer, a verb meaning "to open wide," and, in later Anglo-French usage, "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. The word, in English, was then applied for 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.

Examples of abeyance in a Sentence

our weekend plans were held in abeyance until we could get a weather forecast
Recent Examples on the Web Plans to build a next-generation frigate at a second yard, which Ingalls had a good chance of winning, now are in abeyance, as are plans to build a next-generation destroyer. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 13 May 2022 In effect, all pending cases in various courts have been held in abeyance. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 10 May 2022 This is science fiction that keeps its science largely in abeyance, as dark matter for a story about loneliness, grief and finding purpose. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2022 Three weeks later, Dayspring and his business associates addressed the Board of Supervisors during the public comment period, urging the county to again extend the abeyance. Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2021 Here’s a look at some of the tougher possible penalties that U.S. leaders are holding in abeyance — while watching for new Russian steps against Ukraine. Ellen Knickmeyer And Fatima Hussein, Anchorage Daily News, 23 Feb. 2022 Hope and anticipation have not gone dormant, have not settled in abeyance, just in impatience. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Jan. 2022 The consensus of analysts is that the crisis may be in abeyance for the moment, but is far from over. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Dec. 2021 The judge held the case in abeyance until the parties could work out a solution. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 6 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abeyance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of abeyance

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for abeyance

borrowed from Anglo-French abeyaunce "absence of a claimant or owner, lapse in succession," from abaer, abair "to open wide" (from a-, prefix in transitive verbs—from Latin ad- ad- — + baer, baier "to have the mouth wide open, gape, pant," from Vulgar Latin *batāre, perhaps of imitative origin) + -ance -ance

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The first known use of abeyance was circa 1530

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abeyance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abeyance. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for abeyance


abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-ən(t)s How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Medical Definition of abeyance

: temporary inactivity or suspension (as of function or a symptom)


abey·​ance | \ ə-ˈbā-əns How to pronounce abeyance (audio) \

Legal Definition of abeyance

1 : a lapse in the succession of property during which there is no person in whom title to the property is vested usually used with in the estate was in abeyance
2 : temporary inactivity or suppression : cessation or suspension for a period of time usually used with in or into to hold the entry of summary judgment in abeyance— J. H. Friedenthal et al.

History and Etymology for abeyance

Middle French abeance expectation (of a title or claimant), from abaer to expect, from a-, prefix stressing result + baer to gape, aim at

More from Merriam-Webster on abeyance

Nglish: Translation of abeyance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abeyance for Arabic Speakers


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