ab·​ste·​mi·​ous ab-ˈstē-mē-əs How to pronounce abstemious (audio)
: marked by restraint especially in the eating of food or drinking of alcohol
an abstemious drinker
also : reflecting such restraint
an abstemious diet
abstemiously adverb
abstemiousness noun

Did you know?

Abstemious and abstain look alike, and both have meanings involving self-restraint or self-denial. So they must both come from the same root, right? Yes and no. Both get their start from the Latin prefix abs-, meaning "from" or "away." But abstain traces to the Latin abstinēre, a combination of abs- and the Latin verb tenēre ("to hold"), while abstemious comes from the Latin abstēmius, which combines abs- with tēm- (a stem found in the Latin tēmētum, "intoxicating beverage," and tēmulentus, "drunken") and the adjectival suffix -ius ("full of, abounding in, having, possessing the qualities of").

Examples of abstemious in a Sentence

She is known as an abstemious eater and drinker. being abstemious diners, they avoid restaurants with all-you-can-eat buffets
Recent Examples on the Web Low mass has always been a Miata virtue, endowing the car with not just precise handling but also an abstemious appetite for tires and fuel. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 21 July 2023 Caroline Schiff, 38, the executive pastry chef at Brooklyn’s Gage & Tollner, says that a decade ago, abstemious diners often asked for sliced fruit in lieu of sugary creations. Ella Quittner, New York Times, 1 Dec. 2023 For the more abstemious, a bottle of Non3 ($30), a zero-proof sipping drink with notes of cinnamon and yuzu and a slightly tannic finish, alongside a Massimo Lunardon weird-little-dude goblet ($155)—not its official name, but certainly an accurate description of its weird-little-dudeness. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2023 While that might sound painfully abstemious or downright torturous, We Care has a few key things going for it. Liz Krieger, Town & Country, 1 Mar. 2023 In Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, you’re reminded that South Korea is neither homogeneous nor locked into an abstemious order. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 2 Nov. 2022 Carter was consistently ethical, abstemious, frugal and ascetic in the White House. Washington Post, 18 June 2021 This woman, Margaret Bolden Wilson, was a Seventh-day Adventist who would have been considered abstemious even by the most devout. Colin Asher, The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2021 People grow more risk-averse, abstemious, religious. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 15 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abstemious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin abstēmius "refraining from wine, careful with one's means," from abs- (variant of ab- ab- before c- and t-) + -tēmius, from a base tēm- "intoxicating" (also in tēmētum "intoxicating beverage," tēmulentus "drunken"); if going back to an Indo-European root *temH-, akin to Sanskrit tāmyati "(he/she) is stunned, loses consciousness, is exhausted," tamayati "(he/she) chokes (someone)," Armenian tʿmrim "(he/she) is stunned" (perhaps going back to *tēmiro-)

First Known Use

1609, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of abstemious was in 1609


Dictionary Entries Near abstemious

Cite this Entry

“Abstemious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstemious. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ab·​ste·​mi·​ous ab-ˈstē-mē-əs How to pronounce abstemious (audio)
: not eating and drinking much
abstemiously adverb

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