Dearth is closer in meaning to lack and scarcity. These words can mean total or partial insufficiency. Usually an adjective is used with them to express total deficiency.

Ex – You display a complete lack of manners.

Absence is opposite of presence and thus it always means complete lack.

Ex – There is absence of bread in this store.

Shortage always means partial insufficiency, usually of an established amount.

Ex – There was shortage of medicine in the village.

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