ab·​sten·​tion | \ əb-ˈsten(t)-shən How to pronounce abstention (audio) , 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 \ əb-​ˈsten(t)-​shəs How to pronounce abstentious (audio) , ab-​ \ 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 In August, the board voted 6-2 with one abstention to delay the election indefinitely, but hastily reconvened after a public backlash, setting the date hours before the deadline. Andres Picon, ExpressNews.com, "10 candidates vie for 4 seats on Alamo Colleges District board of trustees," 4 Oct. 2020 If democratic elections are legitimate and their results are respected, voter abstention in the U.S. has no practical impact that would distinguish it from voter apathy. Scott Davidson, The Conversation, "Why there is no ethical reason not to vote (unless you come down with COVID-19 on Election Day)," 29 Sep. 2020 Her nomination was approved by the Senate in a 96-3 vote, with one abstention. Steven P. Dinkin, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Imagining Justice Ginsburg’s last act," 27 Sep. 2020 The school board voted to approve the plan 8 to 3, with one abstention. Hannah Natanson, Washington Post, "Fairfax, Loudoun County Public Schools to return small groups of students to classrooms," 23 Sep. 2020 Because of the abstention votes, that didn't happen. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "U-M president barely survives no-confidence vote from faculty," 16 Sep. 2020 The Orange school board’s vote was 2-2, with one abstention, causing the resolution to fail. cleveland, "Settlement reached: 6 Beachwood district children can attend Orange schools this year," 30 Aug. 2020 Last week, the board voted 6-2, with one abstention, to delay its election to an undetermined date. Krista Torralva, ExpressNews.com, "Having missed 2 chances, Alamo Colleges board finally sets election for November," 17 Aug. 2020 The vote on the measure to keep fighting for the current alignment failed 11-6, with one abstention. Janet Moore, Star Tribune, "Move to again engage BNSF Railway on Bottineau LRT project fails," 13 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for abstention

Time Traveler

The first known use of abstention was in 1521

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Statistics for abstention

Last Updated

7 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstention.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstention. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for abstention


ab·​sten·​tion | \ əb-ˈsten-chən How to pronounce abstention (audio) \

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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