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 Notably, Scottish parliament passed the legislation with 112 votes in favour, none against, and one abstention. Elizabeth Gulino, refinery29.com, "Scotland Is Making Pads & Tampons Free For Everyone," 28 Feb. 2020 The vote to finance that project was 12-4, with one abstention. Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Center's $420 million expansion gets board approval despite concerns about its financing plan," 2 Apr. 2020 The NFL Players Association's membership spent the last week voting on the 439-page document after its executive board narrowly rejected it by a 6-5 vote, and the player representatives voted 17-14 in favor, with one abstention. cleveland, "NFL players approve labor deal, including 17-game season," 15 Mar. 2020 The parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to accept it in a 353-0 vote, with 40 abstentions. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Volodymyr Zelensky forces out prime minister who insulted his knowledge of Ukraine economy," 5 Mar. 2020 His abstention in this phase of the protest does not rule out his participation in a coalition at a later stage. BostonGlobe.com, "JERUSALEM — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin summoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz to a joint meeting Monday night in hopes of brokering a deal that would weld their two bitterly divided parties into a unity government.," 24 Sep. 2019 The board voted 17 to 14 with one abstention, below the two-thirds majority needed to recommend the deal. Ken Belson, New York Times, "N.F.L. Player Accuses Union Leaders of Bad Faith C.B.A. Negotiation," 9 Mar. 2020 The legislation passed an initial vote with 112 in favor, none against and one abstention, Reuters reported. Author: Miriam Berger, Anchorage Daily News, "Scotland moves to become first country to make pads and tampons free," 27 Feb. 2020 Parliament voted 129 to 77 with one abstention to approve the government of Prime Minister-designate Elyes Fakhfakh. Washington Post, "World Digest: Feb. 27, 2020," 27 Feb. 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

4 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstention.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstention. Accessed 27 May. 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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