ab·​sti·​nence | \ ˈab-stə-nən(t)s How to pronounce abstinence (audio) \

Definition of abstinence

1 : the practice of abstaining from something : the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable … ate with a haste and an apparent relish, that seemed to betoken long abstinence from food.— Walter Scott
2a : habitual abstaining from intoxicating beverages
b : abstention from sexual intercourse

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from abstinence

abstinent \ ˈab-​stə-​nənt How to pronounce abstinent (audio) \ adjective
abstinently adverb

Examples of abstinence in a Sentence

The program promoted sexual abstinence for young people. a cleric vainly preaching abstinence in a world where self-indulgence is regarded as almost a virtue
Recent Examples on the Web Our savior was not the tech-abstinence-preaching Greta Thunberg, but some as yet unknown prodigy, funded by Thiel, who would figure out how to recode the physical processes of the planet. Thomas Meaney, Harper's magazine, "Trumpism After Trump," 20 Jan. 2020 The nonprofit arm works for Upper Midwest Catholic schools to support educational technology and chastity and abstinence education. J.d. Duggan, Twin Cities, "From pioneer roots to modern day, Catholic United sees steady growth," 1 Dec. 2019 There were 17,373 discharges due to neonatal abstinence among state residents from Ohio hospitals between 2006 and 2018, according the state Department of Health. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Lawyers for babies born after opioid exposure want Cleveland judge to approve class action against drug companies," 9 Jan. 2020 For millions of women throughout history, practicing abstinence in order to avoid the potentially devastating outcome of an unwanted baby wasn’t so much a moral choice as a practical necessity. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "What the Cyprus Gang-Rape Case Can Teach Us," 9 Jan. 2020 In Curtis’s view, a change in consumption patterns might not mean abstinence. Fortune, "The Case for Designing Beautiful Airports: It’s About the Experience," 7 Jan. 2020 In fact, the only scientifically proven method to avoid a hangover is moderate alcohol consumption or good old abstinence. Popular Science, "How (to attempt) to cure a hangover," 1 Jan. 2020 In Utah, the state’s predominant religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches abstinence from alcohol and strict liquor laws continue to hold sway. Lindsay Whitehurst, Twin Cities, "Utah says goodbye to low-alcohol beer sales; Minnesota now last state with 3.2% beer," 31 Oct. 2019 Addicts got clean through forced abstinence but then, without treatment, were dumped back onto the streets, only now with a lower tolerance. Chris Ballard, SI.com, "Jeff Hatch Was Dealing Fentanyl. And Helping Others Recover. Then a Visit from the VP Blew It All Up," 2 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abstinence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of abstinence

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abstinence

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin abstinentia, noun derivative of abstinent-, abstinens, present participle of abstinēre "to abstain"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about abstinence

Time Traveler for abstinence

Time Traveler

The first known use of abstinence was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for abstinence

Last Updated

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstinence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstinence. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abstinence


ab·​sti·​nence | \ ˈab-stə-nəns How to pronounce abstinence (audio) \

Kids Definition of abstinence

: an avoidance by choice especially of certain foods or of liquor


ab·​sti·​nence | \ ˈab-stə-nən(t)s How to pronounce abstinence (audio) \

Medical Definition of abstinence

: the act or practice of abstaining especially from engagement in sexual intercourse or consumption of intoxicating beverages

Other Words from abstinence

abstinent \ -​nənt How to pronounce abstinent (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on abstinence

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!