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.

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. One may abstain from a vice, for example, or in parliamentary procedure, one might abstain from placing a vote. 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 Most recently, India was among the 58 countries to abstain from a vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 11 Apr. 2022 All were undecided, ready to change their minds, or planning to abstain. John Irish And Noemie Olive, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 Apr. 2022 Later in the episode, Noella chose to abstain from attending the group's archery outing. Dory Jackson, PEOPLE.com, 6 Apr. 2022 South Africa was one of 17 African nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine on March 2. Stephanie Busari, CNN, 21 Mar. 2022 Tretter and the union also decried the combine itself, urging college prospects -- who are not yet part of the union -- to abstain from the process altogether. cleveland, 11 Mar. 2022 This might be arranged through a UN resolution to that effect and for which Russia agrees to abstain. Mark Cancian, Forbes, 7 Mar. 2022 What has recently been billed as a prime-time showcase of the NFL's top incoming talent did not entirely pan out that way, as several prospects elected to abstain from certain portions of drills or entire workouts altogether. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, 7 Mar. 2022 Several speakers during public comment urged Collins and Lopez to abstain from voting on the potential layoffs, bonuses and cuts given the overwhelming vote to remove them office. Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near abstain

absque impetitione vasti

abstain

abstemious

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Statistics for abstain

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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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

abstain

intransitive verb
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

abstain

intransitive verb
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)

More from Merriam-Webster on abstain

Nglish: Translation of abstain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstain for Arabic Speakers

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