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Abeyance has something in common with yawn. Today, yawn
implies sleep or boredom, but years ago it could also signify longing
or desire ("Full many men know I that yawn and gape after some fat and
rich benefice" —Thomas Hoccleve, 1420). The Old French word for "yawn"
was baer, which joined the prefix a- ("in a state or condition of") to form abaer, a verb meaning "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. But when we adopted abeyance
into English in the 16th century, we applied 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.
Examples of ABEYANCE
The misdemeanor charges are in abeyance while the suspect is being prosecuted for the felony.
"The 1950–53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, so hostilities have merely been in abeyance."
— Rick Gladstone and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2017
Word Family Quiz
What word is related to Old French baer and refers to a slanted surface or edge on a piece of wood?