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, like 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[First attested in the late 18th century.][1]
    • 1917, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter VIII, in The Son of Tarzan:
      Geeka was cooking dinner. As the little girl played she prattled continuously to her companion, propped in a sitting position with a couple of twigs. She was totally absorbed in the domestic duties of Geeka--so much so that she did not note the gentle swaying of the branches of the tree above her as they bent to the body of the creature that had entered them stealthily from the jungle.
    • 1904, Kazimierz Waliszewski, translated by Lady Mary Loyd, Ivan the Terrible Part 2 Chapter 3
      Livonian affairs held him tight, and were to absorb him for many a year.
  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 termsEdit


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See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 “absorb” in Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 9.






  1. first-person singular present indicative of absorbi
  2. third-person plural present indicative of absorbi
  3. first-person singular present subjunctive of absorbi