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First attested in 1528. From Anglo-Norman abeiance (legal expectation), from Old French abeance (desire) from abeër (to gape at, aspire after), abaer, abair (to desire), from a (to) + baër (to gape),[1] bair (yawn), from Medieval Latin batō (to yawn)[2][3].


  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈbeɪ.ənts/, /əˈbeɪ.əns/
  • (file)


abeyance (plural abeyances)

  1. (law) Expectancy; condition of ownership of real property being undetermined; lapse in succession of ownership of estate, or title. [Late 16th century][4]
    The proceeds of the estate shall be held in abeyance in an escrow account until the minor reaches age twenty-one.
    • 1765, William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England:
      Yet sometimes the fee may be in abeyance, that is (as the word signifies) in expectation, remembrance, and contemplation in law; there being no person in esse, in whom it can vest and abide []
  2. Suspension; temporary suppression; dormant condition. [Mid 17th century][4]
    • 2003, Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, BCA, published 2003, page 376:
      Without a plausible explanation for what might have provoked an ice age, the whole theory fell into abeyance.
  3. (heraldry) Expectancy of a title, its right in existence but its exercise suspended.
    The broad pennant of a commodore first class has been in abeyance since 1958, together with the rank.


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  1. ^ William Morris (editor), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1971 [1969]; American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.; ISBN 0-395-09066-0), page 3
  2. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], ISBN 0-87779-101-5), page 3
  3. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], ISBN 0550142304), page 2
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0198605751), page 4