Definition of abstain
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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Examples of abstain in a sentence
Ten members voted for the proposal, six members voted against it, and two abstained.
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.
Origin and Etymology of 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 1thin
First Known Use: 14th century
ABSTAIN Defined for Kids
Definition of abstain for Students
: to choose not to do or have something abstain from voting
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)
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 proceedings — Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006)
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