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 343-263 vote in the lower Chamber of Deputies, with three lawmakers abstaining, was the preamble to Tuesday’s vote in the Senate. Washington Post, "Italy’s Conte wins first confidence vote in Parliament," 10 Sep. 2019 The motion passed 3-0-1, with Councilor Will Bradshaw abstaining. Vincent T. Davis, ExpressNews.com, "Leon Valley gets new councilor after the San Antonio suburb’s council ousted one of their own," 20 Aug. 2019 The board voted 5-0 Monday night, with student board member Ethan Collier abstaining, to reject the loan that the San Diego County Office of Education offered Sweetwater to address the district’s unpaid $12 million cash borrowing balance. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Sweetwater school district rejects county loan, complains about county officials," 13 Aug. 2019 The Board voted against the recommendation by a vote of 4-0 with one board member abstaining. Andrew Clark, Indianapolis Star, "Lawyer: Tri-West football coach abused student, threatened to retaliate if she spoke out," 8 Aug. 2019 The parliament voted 155-124 against him Thursday, with 67 lawmakers abstaining. Raphael Minder, BostonGlobe.com, "Sánchez loses bid to form a government, prolonging deadlock in Spain," 25 July 2019 The remaining partnership, which is at a site located in Richardson, was approved 6-2 with trustee Karla Garcia abstaining from the vote. Dallas News, "Fiery debate on charter school partnership reignites at Dallas ISD board meeting," 27 June 2019 The White House representative to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, urged protesters to march peacefully, abstain from violence and not approach the fence. Rory Jones, WSJ, "Eight Die as Protests Resume at Gaza-Israel Fence," 7 Apr. 2018 The resolution passed by a vote of 87 in favor, 29 against and 25 abstaining. Washington Post, "Countries agree to limit sales of elephants to zoos," 27 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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Last Updated

20 Sep 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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