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.

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. One may abstain from a vice, for example, or in parliamentary procedure, one might abstain from placing a vote. 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 One of the conditions of his release was to abstain from alcohol, and a testing program is monitoring his adherence to that requirement. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, 17 Nov. 2021 The court ordered Cornwall to surrender her passport and abstain from alcohol and drug use and not to possess guns or other weapons, court records show. NBC News, 27 Dec. 2021 But many investors and asset managers that have committed to decarbonize their portfolios—BlackRock included—still routinely either abstain from or vote against those resolutions, according to two new analyses. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 16 Dec. 2021 Experts said the decision to abstain from these pledges spoke volumes about America’s domestic politics and the influence of the coal, oil and gas industries. Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times, 12 Nov. 2021 But, as Agence France-Presse’s Patrick Galey pointed out, by the time the list of nations was published, only twenty-three had announced new plans to abstain from coal, and ten of them don’t even burn coal. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 9 Nov. 2021 Some of us should abstain Despite the new science, many of us still need to think twice about bringing our dogs, cats or indoor pigs into our beds. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 5 Nov. 2021 The decision by the United States to abstain appeared to be driven by American politics. New York Times, 4 Nov. 2021 The only member of the commission to abstain from the vote was the historian Jean Baubérot, the author of a multivolume study of France’s 1905 law. Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic, 22 Nov. 2021

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, occupy, possess" — more at tenant entry 1

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

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Dictionary Entries Near abstain

absque impetitione vasti

abstain

abstemious

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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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

abstain

intransitive verb
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

abstain

intransitive verb
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)

More from Merriam-Webster on abstain

Nglish: Translation of abstain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstain for Arabic Speakers

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