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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].


  • IPA(key): /əˈbeɪ.əns/
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abeyance (countable and uncountable, plural abeyances)

  1. (law) Expectancy; a condition when an ownership of real property is 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 []
    • 1985 [1967], John Bartholomew & Son Limited, “Antarctica”, in The Times Atlas of the World, 7th comprehensive edition, Times Books Limited, →ISBN, plate 123:
      Note: Under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 all territorial claims are held under abeyance in the interest of international co-operation for scientific purposes.
  2. Suspension; temporary suppression; dormant condition. [Mid 17th century][4]
    • 2003, Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, BCA, page 376:
      Without a plausible explanation for what might have provoked an ice age, the whole theory fell into abeyance.
    • 2020 July 29, Ian Prosser discusses with Paul Stephen, “Rail needs robust and strategic plans”, in Rail, page 40:
      [...] Prosser was instrumental in the decision in 2010 to recommence publication of an annual health and safety report, following a period when it had fallen into abeyance.
    • 2022 January 13, Ben Quinn, “Queen strips Prince Andrew of military roles and royal patronages”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The palace had previously that the duke’s military appointments were in abeyance after he stepped down from public duties in 2019.
  3. Expectancy of a noble or armigeral 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.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ William Morris, editor (1969 (1971 printing)), “abeyance”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New York, N.Y.: American Heritage Publishing Co., →OCLC, page 3.
  2. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], →ISBN), 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), page 2
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “abeyance”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 4.