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

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Other Words from abstinence

abstinent \ ˈab-​stə-​nənt How to pronounce abstinence (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 Traditionally in rehabs and 12-step programs, recovery is predicated on complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol and not moderation. Tomás Mier, PEOPLE.com, "Demi Lovato Reveals She Smokes Weed and Drinks 'in Moderation,' But Says 'It Isn’t for Everyone'," 17 Mar. 2021 And his feast day originally meant abstinence from drink and certainly no parades. Will Jeakle, Forbes, "The Real Story Of Saint Patrick," 16 Mar. 2021 Complete abstinence is not a solution for everyone, says Nick Allen, founder and CEO at Cutback Coach, an online system designed to help people decrease alcohol consumption by being more mindful about their drinking. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, "Sober living for everyone is rising in popularity as Chrissy Teigen, more ditch drinking," 10 Mar. 2021 But nearly 17 percent of schools teach more than abstinence, including eight of the state’s 10 largest school districts, the report found. Cayla Harris, ExpressNews.com, "State Board of Education OKs new sex ed curriculum excluding LGBTQ youth, consent," 19 Nov. 2020 After consecutive negative urine screens, the participant gets to draw more slips, increasing their chances of winning more money which is meant to reinforce abstinence over time. Zachary Siegel, The New Republic, "What If We Pay People to Stop Using Drugs?," 25 Feb. 2021 Spartacus blames the LDS Church’s influence over Utah lawmakers, the vast majority of whom are members of a faith that preaches abstinence from alcohol. The Salt Lake Tribune, "This wine warrior wants Utah’s next ballot initiative to be liquor privatization," 25 Feb. 2021 And for those trying to use the period of Lenten abstinence to kick an alcohol habit, Ochsner has a program to help. NOLA.com, "Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 takes place over Lent," 8 Feb. 2021 Narcotics Anonymous, for instance, emphasizes abstinence from alcohol or drug use. Rachel Alexander And Saphara Harrell, oregonlive, "Oregon’s drug treatment system is not ready for Measure 110 aftermath, Salem Reporter finds," 6 Feb. 2021

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.

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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"

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Time Traveler for abstinence

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for abstinence

Last Updated

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abstinence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstinence. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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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 abstinence (audio) \ adjective

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