ab·sten·tion | \əb-ˈsten(t)-shən, ab-\

Definition of abstention 

: the act or practice of abstaining: such as

a : the act or practice of choosing not to do or have something abstention from drugs and alcohol a long period of abstention [=abstinence]

b : a formal refusal to vote on something There were 10 ayes, 6 nays, and 2 abstentions.

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Other Words from abstention

abstentious \-shəs \ adjective

Examples of abstention in a Sentence

There were 10 ayes, 6 nays, and 2 abstentions when the vote was taken. a high rate of voter abstention

Recent Examples on the Web

The council action, on an 8-0 vote with five abstentions, capped a turbulent period at City Hall, where gay activists and fundamentalist Christian groups staged rallies and protests. Bill Turque, kansascity, "Michael D. Bates, KC human rights stalwart, dies at 70," 3 July 2018 That makes abstention or avoidance all but impossible, Saxon said. Melissa Healy, ajc, "World Health Organization says video game addiction is a disease," 20 June 2018 The result of the mandatory vote Wednesday among lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies on Premier Giuseppe Conte's coalition was 350-236, with 35 abstentions. Fox News, "Italy's new populist government wins 2nd confidence vote," 6 June 2018 So here, one more time, is how the vote was taken: Commissioner Roger Goodell simply asked the group if there were any no’s or abstentions. Albert Breer, SI.com, "Dolphins Reset, Patriots Regroup, NFL Recharges," 4 June 2018 The elementary school district’s board voted 6-0, with one abstention, to rescind its May 16 job offer to Matthew Eriksen and terminate its employment contract with him. Zak Koeske, Daily Southtown, "Evergreen Park school board rescinds new principal's contract following anonymous misconduct allegations," 15 June 2018 The measure passed the Senate, 32-1, and the Assembly by 66-1 with two abstentions. Max Cohen, Philly.com, "'It's time to get smoking off the beach.' Proposed N.J. ban awaits approval from Gov. Murphy," 7 June 2018 Spain’s parliament voted 180 to 169, with one abstention, to remove Mr. Rajoy, cutting short the second term of one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders currently in power. Jeannette Neumann, WSJ, "Spain’s Mariano Rajoy Ousted From Power After Corruption Scandal," 1 June 2018 In a first attempt to remove the 79-year-old in December, the votes fell short on the back of abstentions and a split between different factions of the opposition. John Quigley, Bloomberg.com, "Peru President Kuczynski Reported to Resign Ahead of Impeachment," 21 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abstention.' 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 abstention

1521, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for abstention

borrowed from Late Latin abstentiōn-, abstentiō, from Latin absten-, variant stem of abstinēre "to abstain" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns

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Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

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The first known use of abstention was in 1521

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More Definitions for abstention


ab·sten·tion | \əb-ˈsten-chən \

Legal Definition of abstention 

: the staying of the exercise of federal jurisdiction in a case that involves a question of state law or policy which the federal court prefers to have resolved by a state court or agency also : the staying of the exercise of federal jurisdiction in a case that involves a proceeding in a court of military justice

Burford abstention \ˈbər-fərd- \

: an abstention grounded on the involvement in the federal case of a challenge to the exercise of a usually complex state administrative function

Colorado River abstention \ˌkä-lə-ˈra-dō-, -ˈrä- \

: an abstention grounded especially on the involvement in the federal case of questions of state concern that are also at issue in a parallel case in state court

Pullman abstention \ˈpu̇l-mən- \

: an abstention grounded on the involvement in the federal case of the interpretation of an ambiguously worded state law whose constitutionality would have to be determined by the federal court

Note: A party to a case subjected to a Pullman abstention may reserve the right to return to federal court once the state court has resolved the state law question. Pullman abstentions are the most common type of abstention.

Thibodaux abstention \ˌtē-bə-ˈdō- \

: an abstention grounded on the involvement in the federal case of an issue that greatly affects and concerns a state

Younger abstention \ˈyəŋ-gər- \

: an abstention grounded on the plaintiff's invocation of federal jurisdiction for the purpose of restraining an ongoing usually criminal state proceeding that has been brought in good faith and not for harassment

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Comments on abstention

What made you want to look up abstention? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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