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Forgetful or inattentive of everyday details or duties, possibly due to a preoccupation with other thoughts. My absent-minded housemate is always lost in composing new poems and never remembers to clean the house or take out the trash!


acronym Absent without leave. Having gone missing suddenly and without warning. It is originally a military phrase for one who leaves his or her post or duties without permission but without intention to desert. In colloquial usage, it can be used as an adverb or an adjective. The printer from the third floor is AWOL, does anyone know where it went? Jerry went AWOL after a few drinks. None of us even knew he had left until half an hour later.

long absent, soon forgotten

The longer a person is not present, the easier he or she is to forget about. A: "Is Carrie really dating someone else now?" B: "You've been gone for months! Long absent, soon forgotten."
See also: forgotten, long, soon

absent oneself from someone or something

to remain away from or avoid someone or some place. Fred absented himself from the meeting, which he was certain would be boring.
See also: absent

*absent without leave

absent from a military unit without permission; absent from anything without permission. (AWOL is an abbreviation. This is a serious offense in the military. *Typically: be ~; go ~.) The soldier was taken away by the military police because he was absent without leave.
See also: absent, leave, without

absent-minded professor

a bumbling professor who overlooks everyday things. Fred is such an absent-minded professor. He'd forget his head if it wasn't screwed on.

absent without leave

Away without permission or explanation, as in Her daughter went to the mall but got in trouble for being absent without leave. The term and its acronym, AWOL, originated in the American military during World War I for soldiers absent from duty without permission (leave). It later was transferred to civilian situations, as in John didn't just cut his Tuesday classes; he went AWOL.
See also: absent, leave, without


(e ˈdəblæju ˈo ˈɛl and ˈewɑl)
mod. absent without leave; escaped from prison or from the military. (Acronym or initialism.) If I don’t get back to the base, they’re going to think I’m AWOL.