Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Abeyance

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is abeyance. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Abeyance means “a state of temporary inactivity.” The word itself is commonly preceded by the preposition in.

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

ABEYANCE in Context

“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

Did You Know?

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.

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