c. 1300, "not filled, held, or occupied," from Old French vacant "idle, unoccupied" (of an office, etc.), from Latin vacantem (nominative vacans), "empty, unoccupied," present participle of vacare "be empty" (from PIE *wak-, extended form of root *eue- "to leave, abandon, give out"). Meaning "characterized by absence of mental occupation" is from 1570s. Related: Vacantly.
It forms all or part of: avoid; devastation; devoid; evacuate; evanescent; vacant; vacate; vacation; vacuity; vacuole; vacuous; vacuum; vain; vanish; vanity; vaunt; void; wane; want; wanton; waste.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit una- "deficient;" Avestan va- "lack," Persian vang "empty, poor;" Armenian unain "empty;" Latin vacare "to be empty," vastus "empty, waste," vanus "empty, void," figuratively "idle, fruitless;" Old English wanian "to lessen," wan "deficient;" Old Norse vanta "to lack."
"uncertain as to specifics," 1540s, from French vague "empty, vacant; wild, uncultivated; wandering" (13c.), from Latin vagus "strolling, wandering, rambling," figuratively "vacillating, uncertain," perhaps from PIE *Huog-o- and cognate with Old Norse vakka "to stray, hover," Old High German wankon "to totter, stagger," Old High German winkan "to waver, stagger, wink," Old English wincian "to nod" [de Vaan]. Related: Vagueness.
also airspace, by 1821 in reference to stove and furnace construction, from air (n.1) + space (n.). From 1852 in reference to the cubic contents of a room (with reference to the persons in it) in sanitary regulations for boarding rooms, hospitals, etc. In firearms, "a vacant space between the powder charge and the projectile" (1847). By 1910 as "portion of the atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory."