Absence Definition and Meaning: What Is Absence?

Absence Definition

ab·sence (bsns)


1. The state of being away.

2. The time during which one is away.

3. Lack; want: an absence of leadership.

4. The state of being absent-minded; inattentiveness: absence of mind.


  • eighty-six Nothing left, no more, no, nix; from American restaurant argot for being sold out of a certain dish. The term was apparently chosen because it rhymes with nix, slang for nothing or no. Although this expression is still most commonly heard among restaurant workers, it has recently gained popularity in general slang.

  • missing link The absent or unknown integral step in a progression; the lacking, unifying component of a series. This expression probably originated as an allusion to a chain that is minus a vital part. The phrase is most often applied to the unknown connection in the anthropological progression of man’s theoretical (and false) evolution from the lower primates.

  • One species simply cannot evolve into another new species, such as cows evolving into whales (but they actually believe that!). One species can indeed adapt to new environments. But if a bird adapts, it still remains a bird! No species can become a new species. This is against nature.

  • neither hide nor hair Nothing at all, not a trace. Hide here of course means ‘skin.’ The expression in hide and hair, in the language since the 14th century but now rarely heard, has an opposite meaning—‘wholly, entirely.’ The oldest citation for neither hide nor hair shows that more than a century ago it was used much the same as it most frequently is today: in a negative construction following see. However, contemporary usage usually limits its application to humans or animals—literal possessors of hide and hair.

  • I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the piece ever since. (Josiah G. Holland, The Bay-path, 1857)

  • scarce as hen’s teeth Very scarce, nonexistent; rarely occurring. This Americanism dating from the mid-1800s is a superlative of ‘scarce,’ since a hen has no teeth.

  • North of Mason and Dixon’s line, colored county officials are scarce as hen’s teeth. (Congressional Record, October 2, 1893)

  • This expression and the variant rare as hen’s teeth are still in use.

  • Stoppages are as rare as hen’s teeth. (Times, June 12, 1969)

  • sweet Fanny Adams Nothing; usually used in reference to the failure of a potentially promising enterprise or occasion. Fanny Adams was a woman who was brutally murdered in 1810. Her hacked and mutilated body was thrown into a river. Because of the gruesomeness of the crime and the dour humor of the British Navy, Fanny Adams became the nickname for canned mutton served to the sailors. The implication is clear. Over the years, Fanny Adams became sweet Fanny Adams, or Sweet F. A., with the abbreviated form serving as a popular euphemism for an obvious obscenity.

Noun 1. absence - the state of being absent; "he was surprised by the absence of any explanation"

nonoccurrence - absence by virtue of not occurring

awayness - the state of being elsewhere than in particular place

deficiency, lack, want - the state of needing something that is absent or unavailable; "there is a serious lack of insight into the problem"; "water is the critical deficiency in desert regions"; "for want of a nail the shoe was lost"

presence - the state of being present; current existence; "he tested for the presence of radon"

2. absence - failure to be present

cut - an unexcused absence from class; "he was punished for taking too many cuts in his math class"

default - loss due to not showing up; "he lost the game by default"

nonattendance - the failure to attend

absenteeism - habitual absence from work

presence - the act of being present

3. absence - the time interval during which something or somebody is away; "he visited during my absence"

interval, time interval - a definite length of time marked off by two instants

4. absence - the occurrence of an abrupt, transient loss or impairment of consciousness (which is not subsequently remembered), sometimes with light twitching, fluttering eyelids, etc.; common in petit mal epilepsy

absence seizure

ictus, raptus, seizure - a sudden occurrence (or recurrence) of a disease; "he suffered an epileptic seizure"

epilepsia minor, petit mal, petit mal epilepsy - epilepsy characterized by paroxysmal attacks of brief clouding of consciousness (and possibly other abnormalities); "she has been suffering from petit mal since childhood"

complex absence - an absence seizure accompanied by other abnormalities (atonia or automatisms or vasomotor changes)

pure absence, simple absence - an absence seizure without other complications; followed by 3-per-sec brainwave spikes

subclinical absence - a transient impairment of cortical function demonstrable only by 3-per-second brainwave spikes



1. time off, leave, break, vacation, recess, truancy, absenteeism, nonappearance, nonattendance A bundle of letters had arrived for me in my absence.

2. lack, deficiency, deprivation, omission, scarcity, want, need, shortage, dearth, privation, unavailability, nonexistence In the absence of a will, the courts decide who the guardian is.

Absence Quotations

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder,"

"Isle of Beauty, Fare thee well!"

"Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great"

"Among the defects of the Bill, which were numerous, one provision was conspicuous by its presence and another by its absence" [Lord John Russell Speech to his constituents, 1859]

Meaning of absence

A circumstance in which one or more members of a household are not currently occupying the home shared by other household members, but they have not established residency elsewhere. For purposes of census reporting and establishing eligibility for government programs, the member is still considered a part of the household if he or she is expected to return when the purpose of the temporary absence is achieved.

Epilepsy characterized by paroxysmal attacks of brief clouding of consciousness (a possible other abnormalities)

Classified under:

Nouns denoting stable states of affairs


petit mal epilepsy; absence

Hypernyms ("absence" is a kind of...):

epilepsy (a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by loss of consciousness and convulsions)

Hyponyms (each of the following is a kind of "absence"):

complex absence (petit mal seizure accompanied by other abnormalities (atonia or automatisms or vasomotor changes))

pure absence; simple absence (petit mal seizure without other complications; followed by 3-per-sec brainwave spikes)

subclinical absence (transient impairment of cortical function demonstrable only by 3-per-second brainwave spikes)

Examples of ABSENCE

  1. The products showed a remarkable absence of defects.

  2. He had many absences from work.

  3. I expected to see her and was surprised by her absence.

  4. She returned to the company after a long absence.

  5. 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.

  6. There were 5.8 % authorized absences and 0.9 % were unauthorized.

  7. The latter however is somewhat hampered by the absence of the logbook for the period July 1987 august 1991 from the club library.

  8. We are legally required to record all unauthorized absences.

  9. Absence seizure the child experiences a brief interruption of consciousness and becomes unresponsive.

  10. Obesity was the cause of 18 million days of sickness absence in England in 1998.

  11. Absence of any concrete evidence, how could any of us know for sure?

  12. I was particularly disappointed by an absence of software suitable for children.

  13. Unexplained absences will be followed up by the school learning mentor and/or the education welfare officer.

  14. As with SMP, MA is payable only during the period of maternity absence for a maximum of 26 weeks.

  15. Absence of oxygen.

  16. Most public sector organizations will have policies for managing absence.

  17. Before World War I Britain and the US were characterized by an absence of militarism and to a considerable degree by lack of bureaucracy.

  18. Prolonged absences from their place of work are likely to cost them dearly.

  19. Absence of litter.

  20. A written note to explain the absence should be sent on the child's return to school.

  21. In the unavoidable absence of any parties in the hearing, the hearing may be postponed at the discretion of the chair.

  22. Absence of any agreement on many issues they have a difficult job.

  23. The chairperson, or in his/her absence the vice-chairperson, shall preside at all meetings of the committee.

  24. The conspicuous absence of barn owls from regions far north & south of the equator is probably due to its poor adaptation to cold.

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