Using the method of time-domain spectroscopy, we measure the far-infrared absorption and dispersion from 0.2 to 2 THz of the crystalline dielectrics sapphire and quartz, fused silica, and the semiconductors silicon, gallium arsenide, and germanium. For sapphire and quartz, the measured absorptions are consistent with the earlier work below 0.5 THz. Above 1 THz we measure significantly more absorption for sapphire, while for quartz our values are in reasonable agreement with those of the previous work. Our results on high-purity fused silica are consistent with those on the most transparent fused silica measured to date. For the semiconductors, we show that many of the previous measurements on silicon were dominated by the effects of carriers due to impurities. For high-resistivity, 10-ku cm silicon, we measure a remarkable transparency together with an exceptionally nondispersive index of refraction. For GaAs our measurements extend the precision of the previous work, and we resolve two weak absorption features at 0.4 and 0.7 THz. Our measurements on germanium demonstrate the dominant role of intrinsic carriers; the measured absorption and dispersion are well fitted by the simple Drude theory. © 1990, Optical Society of America.