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adjective ab·stract \ab-ˈstrakt, ˈab-ˌ\

Simple Definition of abstract

  • : relating to or involving general ideas or qualities rather than specific people, objects, or actions

  • of art : expressing ideas and emotions by using elements such as colors and lines without attempting to create a realistic picture

Full Definition of abstract

  1. 1 a :  disassociated from any specific instance <an abstract entity> b :  difficult to understand :  abstruse <abstract problems> c :  insufficiently factual :  formal <possessed only an abstract right>

  2. 2 :  expressing a quality apart from an object <the word poem is concrete, poetry is abstract>

  3. 3 a :  dealing with a subject in its abstract aspects :  theoretical <abstract science> b :  impersonal, detached <the abstract compassion of a surgeon — Time>

  4. 4 :  having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation or narrative content <abstract painting>

ab·stract·ly play \ab-ˈstrak(t)-lē, ˈab-ˌ\ adverb
ab·stract·ness play \ab-ˈstrak(t)-nəs, ˈab-ˌ\ noun

Examples of abstract

  1. It is true that the atrocities that were known remained abstract and remote, rarely acquiring the status of knee-buckling knowledge among ordinary Americans. Because the savagery of genocide so defies our everyday experience, many of us failed to wrap our minds around it. —Samantha Power, New York Times Book Review, 14 Mar. 2002

  2. A glance into the classrooms of the Los Angeles public school system … fleshes out the abstract debates with the faces of children. —Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997

  3. I take my photographs and print them on a laser copying machine in the “photo” mode; the resulting image is more stark and abstract than a traditional photographic print, which tends to dominate the page regardless of the text. —Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit, 1996

  4. abstract ideas such as love and hate

  5. Honesty is an abstract word.

  6. The word poem is concrete, the word poetry is abstract.

Origin of abstract

Medieval Latin abstractus, from Latin, past participle of abstrahere to drag away, from abs-, ab- + trahere to pull, draw

First Known Use: 14th century



noun ab·stract \ˈab-ˌstrakt, in sense 2 also ab-ˈ\

Simple Definition of abstract

  • : a brief written statement of the main points or facts in a longer report, speech, etc.

  • : an abstract work of art (such as a painting)

Full Definition of abstract

  1. 1 :  a summary of points (as of a writing) usually presented in skeletal form; also :  something that summarizes or concentrates the essentials of a larger thing or several things

  2. 2 :  an abstract thing or state (see 1abstract)

  3. 3 :  abstraction 4a

Examples of abstract

  1. an artist admired for his abstracts

  2. <the scientist wrote a bare-bones abstract of his research and conclusions>

Origin of abstract

Middle English, from Latin abstractus (see 1abstract)

First Known Use: 15th century

Other Fine Arts Terms



verb ab·stract \ab-ˈstrakt, ˈab-ˌ, in sense 3 usually ˈab-ˌ\

Simple Definition of abstract

  • : to make a summary of the main parts of (a report, speech, etc.) : to make an abstract of (something)

  • : to obtain or remove (something) from a source

  • : to steal (something)

Full Definition of abstract

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  remove, separate

  3. 2 :  to consider apart from application to or association with a particular instance

  4. 3 :  to make a summary or abstract of :  summarize

  5. 4 :  to draw away the attention of

  6. 5 :  steal, purloin

  7. intransitive verb
  8. :  to make an abstraction

ab·stract·able play \-ˈstrak-tə-bəl, -ˌstrak-\ adjective
ab·strac·tor or ab·stract·er play \-tər\ noun

Examples of abstract

  1. … artists in the group put the emphasis on geometric abstraction rather than images abstracted from nature. —Robert Atkins, Art Spoke, 1993

  2. … the Romantic project was to abstract from religion its essential “feeling” and leave contemptuously behind its traditional formulations. —Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture, 1969

  3. … conscientiously and with great purity made the uncompromising effort to abstract his view of life into an art work … —Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself, 1959

  4. … basic esthetic criteria and standards he has abstracted from long intimacy with time-tested masterpieces. —Aline B. Saarinen, New York Times Book Review, 7 Nov. 1954

  5. Data for the study was abstracted from hospital records.

  6. <personal problems abstracted him so persistently that he struggled to keep his mind on his work>

Origin of abstract

(see 1abstract)

First Known Use: 1542

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February 14, 2016

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