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 islands of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands abstain as well. People Staff, PEOPLE.com, "When is Daylight Saving Time 2019? Everything You Need to Know to 'Fall Back'," 30 Oct. 2019 Rose also abstained from a March 2019 vote to reject the change order that Panzica had sought. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Brecksville Councilman Dennis Rose defends votes on police station project; contractor was client of his law firm," 15 Oct. 2019 Durran Dowdle, Ward B councilman who was serving as mayor pro tem, abstained, which was counted as a no vote. Karen Zurawski, Houston Chronicle, "Chris Harris named mayor pro tem in Katy," 26 Sep. 2019 In Iran’s unique power structure, its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can approve, abstain from, or reject any formula proposed by the government. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "Trump’s Weird Whoppers at the G-7 Summit," 27 Aug. 2019 Months earlier, Murray had abstained from a Council vote to honor a longtime Cincinnati Planned Parenthood doctor. Jason Williams, Cincinnati.com, "PX column: It's not just Democrats thinking they can defeat Steve Chabot. See which Republican considers challenging Cincinnati congressman," 20 June 2019 During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, many Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "How Indianapolis Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan," 4 June 2019 This allowance would increase the longer a person abstained from flying. Keith Baker, Quartz, "Four bold visions for the future of flying," 20 Aug. 2019 Meanwhile, Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts abstained from voting on the bill, which passed 398 to 17. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats rally to Tlaib, Omar over Israel ban," 15 Aug. 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, occupy, possess" — more at tenant entry 1

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Statistics for abstain

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for abstain

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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