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 Members are asked to abstain from alcohol during the program and get nutrition advice to change up their diet. Julie Mazziotta, PEOPLE.com, "Alex Rodriguez Lost His ‘Dad Bod’ Thanks to This $4,000 Workout Program," 30 Apr. 2021 Ramadan is a holy month where all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and abstain from eating and drinking. Yumna Jawad, Better Homes & Gardens, "Traditions and Family: The Meaningful Ways This Food Blogger Observes Ramadan," 16 Apr. 2021 Arby’s briefly took over the town of Hope, Ind., and encouraged its residents to abstain from eating ground-beef patties for two weeks. New York Times, "No One Loves Arby’s Like I Do," 15 Dec. 2020 The committee ultimately decided to abstain from voting, and meet again in 7 to 10 days once more information has been gathered. Leah Rosenbaum, Forbes, "Covid-19 Weekly Roundup: What Happened With The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?," 16 Apr. 2021 Exemplary vegan pleasers, ladera used to be the staple food during Lent or on the day before major religious festivals, when the Orthodox faithful are supposed to abstain from meat. John Malathronas, CNN, "Best Greek food: 24 of the tastiest selections," 13 Apr. 2021 Therefore, a member would not legally have to abstain from a vote that deals with a city government unit under their control. Tim Prudente, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore clarifies rules to govern Board of Estimates votes, abstentions," 13 Mar. 2021 That means hourly pay would no longer be subject each year to the whims of conservative lawmakers, many of whom abstain for drinking alcohol for religious reasons. Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "It’s a safe bet: Utah’s liquor store employees will be getting raises," 5 Mar. 2021 Throughout the week, observant Jews abstain from the consumption of bread and other leavened foods to commemorate the hardships of the flight from Egypt. Ilan Ben Zion, The Christian Science Monitor, "Passover in Israel: Celebrating pandemic progress and freedom," 28 Mar. 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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Time Traveler for abstain

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

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Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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)

Comments on abstain

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