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 \ -​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

That report found nearly 17 percent of schools teach more than abstinence, including eight of the top 10 largest school districts. Andrea Zelinski, ExpressNews.com, "Rewrite of Texas sex education standards could include lessons on contraception, gender identity," 14 June 2019 The analysis, which used hospitalization data from October 2017 through September 2018, found that about 14 out of every 1,000 newborns needed hospital treatment for drug withdrawal, medically known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Marie Mccullough, https://www.inquirer.com, "White infants in rural Pennsylvania especially hard hit by opioid crisis, data suggest," 4 June 2019 Most of the content was based on heterosexual relationships and abstinence. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "What These 4 Young People Want You to Know About HIV," 10 Apr. 2019 Relaxation of laws on fasting and abstinence throughout the Nation because of rationing and wartime conditions yesterday was announced by high dignitaries of the Catholic Church. Johnny Miller, San Francisco Chronicle, "Black Panther Bobby Seale speaks at S.F. State," 28 Feb. 2018 This year, Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine's Day, setting up a curious confluence of decadence and abstinence. The Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Ash Wednesday: Wearing ashes marks the beginning of Lent," 14 Feb. 2018 The prescription: a month of abstinence from all except the essentials, like work email and texts with family. Alexander George, Popular Mechanics, "A Computer Scientist's Guide To Dumping the Needless Tech In Your Life," 25 Feb. 2019 In addition to abstinence, which is already taught, students will learn that PrEP and condoms can help prevent transmission of the virus. Debbie Truong, Washington Post, "Fairfax students to learn about HIV prevention pill in health classes," 18 June 2018 Seven participants have died in the last year, all of them after a period of abstinence in jail, in the hospital, or in detox, which can dangerously lower a person’s opioid tolerance. Aubrey Whelan, Philly.com, "Philadelphia clears its heroin camps this week. This housing program could be a key," 29 May 2018

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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Statistics for abstinence

Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for abstinence

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

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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 abstinent (audio) \ adjective

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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).


showing courage and determination

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