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First attested around 1425. From Middle French absorber, from Old French assorbir,from Latin absorbeō ‎(swallow up), from ab ‎(from) + sorbeō ‎(suck in, swallow); akin to Ancient Greek ῥοφέω ‎(rhophéō, sup up), Middle Irish srub ‎(snout), Lithuanian srēbti ‎(to sip). Compare French absorber.



absorb ‎(third-person singular simple present absorbs, present participle absorbing, simple past and past participle absorbed or (archaic) absorpt)

  1. (transitive) To include so that it no longer has separate existence; to overwhelm; to cause to disappear as if by swallowing up; to incorporate; to assimilate; to take in and use up. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.][1]
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To engulf, as in water; to swallow up. [Attested from the late 15th century until the late 18th century.][1]
    • 1879, Thomas Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth:
      to be absorpt, or swallowed up, in a lake of fire and brimstone.
  3. (transitive) To suck up; to drink in; to imbibe; as a sponge or as the lacteals of the body; to chemically take in. [First attested in the early 17th century.][1]
  4. (transitive, physics, chemistry) To take in energy and convert it, as[First attested in the early 18th century.][1]
    1. (transitive, physics) in receiving a physical impact or vibration without recoil.
    2. (transitive, physics) in receiving sound energy without repercussion or echo.
    3. (transitive, physics) taking in radiant energy and converting it to a different form of energy, like heat.
    Heat, light, and electricity are absorbed in the substances into which they pass.
  5. (transitive) To engross or engage wholly; to occupy fully; as, absorbed in study or in the pursuit of wealth. [First attested in the late 18th century.][1]
  6. (transitive) To occupy or consume time. [First attested in the mid 19th century.][1]
  7. (transitive) Assimilate mentally. [First attested in the late 19th century.][1]
  8. (transitive, business) To assume or pay for as part of a commercial transaction.
  9. (transitive) To defray the costs.
  10. (transitive) To accept or purchase in quantity.


to take in


  • (physics: to take up by chemical or physical action): emit

Derived terms[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 2003 [1933], Brown, Lesley editor, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7, page 9:


See also[edit]