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 The Oregonian/OregonLive and other news organizations don’t typically agree to abstain from documenting mass gatherings in public. oregonlive, "Portland Commissioner Dan Ryan promised protesters he would meet with them if they didn’t record. Demonstrators confronted journalists who did," 29 Oct. 2020 Black voters did not abstain, however, and many of them cast their first vote ever for Campbell. Washington Post, "He fought for Black voting rights after the Civil War. He was almost killed for it.," 25 Oct. 2020 Still, many are choosing to abstain from indoor operations due to safety concerns, opting to stick with outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. Tara Duggan, SFChronicle.com, "San Francisco restaurants can increase indoor capacity to 50% starting Nov. 3," 20 Oct. 2020 The decision to protest the legitimacy of the appointment and then abstain is a political masterstroke. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | HENRY OLSEN: Confirmation politics," 24 Oct. 2020 Differing opinions on neutrality in the scientific community have led some journals to regularly weigh in on political issues and others to abstain almost entirely. Washington Post, "The New England Journal of Medicine avoided politics for 208 years. Now it’s urging voters to oust Trump.," 7 Oct. 2020 The 22-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., resident has started shopping at the dollar store for household staples such as toilet paper and pasta, tried to abstain from small luxuries such as takeout food, and has spent half of her savings. Te-ping Chen And Sarah Chaney, WSJ, "Laid-Off Workers Cut Spending, Hunt for Jobs as Extra Unemployment Benefits Run Out," 22 Sep. 2020 Rendon, also a Democrat, adopted the rules on Aug. 3 about proxy voting amid the coronavirus pandemic to allow those at high-risk for COVID-19 to abstain from voting in-person. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "California Assembly speaker apologizes for denying proxy vote to lawmaker with newborn," 2 Sep. 2020 To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the city attorney advised Padilla and Salas to abstain from voting on the appointments of their daughters. Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Daughters of mayor, councilman appointed to volunteer commissions," 17 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for abstain

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

10 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 3 Dec. 2020.

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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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