state of being away or not being present: I acted as supervisor in his absence. Your absence was noted on the records.
period of being away: an absence of several weeks.
failure to attend or appear when expected.
lack; deficiency: the absence of proof.
inattentiveness; preoccupation; absent-mindedness: absence of mind.

1350–1400; Middle English < Middle French < Latin absentia. See absent, -ia

1. presence.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
absence (ˈæbsəns)
1.  the state of being away
2.  the time during which a person or thing is away
3.  the fact of being without something; lack
[C14: via Old French from Latin absentia, from absēns a being away]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from O.Fr. absence, from L. absentia, from absens, prp. of abesse "be away," from ab- "away" + esse "to be."
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder"
[Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839) "Isle of Beauty"]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

absence ab·sence (āb'səns)
See petit mal.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with absence, also see conspicuous by its absence.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
The presence or absence of a true sleep state among these creatures remains to
  be investigated scientifically.
And the absence of broader press coverage points to the usual fate of such
The absence of a rating mattered little, as the last thing the city needed to
  do was to go out and borrow money from strangers.
This absence of evidence matters.
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