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 On Thursday, the FDA shortened the window of abstinence even further, to three months. TheWeek, "Zac Efron adorably recounts the time Leonardo DiCaprio gave him advice over homemade pancakes," 2 Apr. 2020 The benefits of abstinence should always be included. Anchorage Daily News, "9 questions: Anchorage School Board candidate Andy Holleman," 28 Mar. 2020 But some of the people who depend on these meetings to maintain their sobriety or abstinence from any other form of addiction might need it now more than ever. Sam Whiting, SFChronicle.com, "People in recovery struggle without their daily congregation," 31 Mar. 2020 Some Protestant denominations also recommend abstinence from meat during certain days in Lent. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "Spirit of the law: Christians debate eating ‘Impossible Burger’ on meatless Lenten Fridays," 26 Feb. 2020 For some, the enthusiasm for a healthy diet comes with strict abstinence from anything that doesn’t meet good nutritional standards. Steven P. Dinkin, San Diego Union-Tribune, "The Vegan Violation," 15 Sep. 2019 Yet the eagerness with which teenage and millennial Muslims have embraced abstinence shows how a purist strain of the faith has tightened its grip. The Economist, "Got an itch? Get hitched Why more Indonesian teens are giving up dating," 2 Apr. 2020 That abstinence period was decreased from the 12 months previously recommended. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "FDA eases restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men during coronavirus pandemic," 2 Apr. 2020 The Impossible Burger complicates the requirements for abstinence. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "Spirit of the law: Christians debate eating ‘Impossible Burger’ on meatless Lenten Fridays," 26 Feb. 2020

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

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstinence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstinence. Accessed 4 Jul. 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

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!