noun ab·strac·tion \ ab-ˈstrak-shən , əb- \
|Updated on: 8 Jul 2018

Definition of abstraction

1 a : the act or process of abstracting : the state of being abstracted
b : an abstract idea or term
2 : absence of mind or preoccupation
3 : abstract quality or character
4 a : an abstract composition or creation in art


play \-shnəl, -shə-nᵊl\ adjective


play \ab-ˈstrak-tiv, ˈab-ˌ\ adjective

Examples of abstraction in a Sentence

  1. abstraction of data from hospital records

  2. “Beauty” and “truth” are abstractions.

  3. She gazed out the window in abstraction.

Recent Examples of abstraction from the Web

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

Did You Know?

From its roots, abstraction should mean basically "something pulled or drawn away". So abstract art is art that has moved away from painting objects of the ordinary physical world in order to show something beyond it. Theories are often abstractions; so a theory about economics, for instance, may "pull back" to take a broad view that somehow explains all of economics (but maybe doesn't end up explaining any of it very successfully). An abstract of a medical or scientific article is a one-paragraph summary of its contents—that is, the basic findings "pulled out" of the article.

Origin and Etymology of abstraction

borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French, "abduction (of a woman), removal, extraction (of a foreign body from a wound), (in philosophy) process by which the mind is able to form universal representations of the properties of distinct objects," borrowed from Late Latin abstractiōn-, abstractiō, from Latin abstrac- (variant stem of abstrahere "to remove forcibly") + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns — more at 1abstract

ABSTRACTION Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of abstraction for English Language Learners

  • : the act of obtaining or removing something from a source : the act of abstracting something

  • : a general idea or quality rather than an actual person, object, or event : an abstract idea or quality

  • : the state of someone who is not paying attention to what is happening or being said : an abstracted state

ABSTRACTION Defined for Kids


noun ab·strac·tion \ ab-ˈstrak-shən \

Definition of abstraction for Students

1 : the act of summarizing : the state of being summarized
2 : a thought or thoughts about general qualities or ideas rather than people or things

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to grant as a privilege or special favor

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