abstain

verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān How to pronounce abstain (audio) , ab-\
abstained; abstaining; abstains

Definition of abstain

intransitive verb

1 : to choose not to do or have something : to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice abstain from drinking
2 : to choose not to vote Ten members voted for the proposal, six members voted against it, and two abstained.

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Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun

Did You Know?

If you "abstain," you're consciously and usually with effort choosing to "hold back" from doing something that you would like to do. So it's no surprise that "abstain" traces back through Middle English and Anglo-French to the Latin abstinēre, which combines the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with "tenēre," a Latin verb meaning "to hold." "Tenēre" has many offspring in English - other descendants include "contain," "detain," "maintain," "obtain," "pertain," "retain," and "sustain," as well as some words that don't end in "-tain," such as "tenacious." "Abstain," like many of its cousins, has been used by English speakers since at least the 14th century.

Examples of abstain in a Sentence

Ten members voted for the proposal, six members voted against it, and two abstained.

Recent Examples on the Web

Often, for bartenders participating in the Pin Project, this means abstaining from alcohol at work. Shanna Farrell, SFChronicle.com, "If you see your bartender wearing this pin, it means they aren’t drinking," 9 July 2019 Specifically, a woman named Sally Jones, 64, was reportedly asked by a royal protection officer to abstain from snapping pics of Markle. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Meghan Markle Is Getting Backlash After Her Team Asked Fans to Not Take Her Photo," 9 July 2019 Because of the lawsuit, the four members of the executive branch who served on the commission were required to abstain from opining or voting. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Stop sending men to prison for addiction treatment, group recommends," 9 July 2019 Scott Bailey was the lone board member to abstain from the final vote on the agreement. oregonlive.com, "Portland school board adopts controversial public records agreement, with a slight tweak," 26 June 2019 New York had to abstain from the vote due to the fact that the state assembly hadn't yet given their approval. Alex Aronson, Popular Mechanics, "Why July 2nd Is Actually America's True Independence Day," 21 June 2019 For Catholics, this means abstaining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the other Fridays leading up to Easter. Gena Steffens, National Geographic, "Critically endangered turtles under siege during Lent," 29 Apr. 2019 The proposals passed with a total of 647 votes for and eight against, with five votes to abstain. Jonathan M. Pitts, baltimoresun.com, "U.S. Catholic bishops pass 3 measures affirming their accountability in sex abuse cases at Baltimore meeting," 13 June 2019 Its representatives to the French carmaker’s board were set to abstain, according to people familiar with the matter, despite Senard’s desire to win at least conditional backing from the Japanese manufacturer. Daniele Lepido, Fortune, "It's Not Up to Renault Anymore. Fiat Chrysler Just Withdrew Its Merger Offer," 5 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abstain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of abstain

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abstain

Middle English absteinen, abstenen, borrowed from Anglo-French asteign-, absteign-, stem of astenir, abstenir, borrowed (with conjugation change, conformed to tenir) from Latin abstinēre "to keep from, hold back, refrain, withhold oneself from," from abs- (variant of ab- ab- before c- and t-) + tenēre "to hold" — more at thin entry 1

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Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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The first known use of abstain was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for abstain

abstain

verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān How to pronounce abstain (audio) \
abstained; abstaining

Kids Definition of abstain

: to choose not to do or have something abstain from voting

Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān, ab- How to pronounce abstain (audio) \

Medical Definition of abstain

: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice (as consumption of a food or a drug or indulgence in sexual intercourse)

Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān, ab- How to pronounce abstain (audio) \

Legal Definition of abstain

: to refrain from exercising federal jurisdiction over a case : cause an abstention federal courts should normally abstain from intervening in pending court-martial proceedingsHamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006)

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More from Merriam-Webster on abstain

Spanish Central: Translation of abstain

Nglish: Translation of abstain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstain for Arabic Speakers

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