ab·​strac·​tion | \ ab-ˈstrak-shən How to pronounce abstraction (audio) , əb- \

Definition of abstraction

1a : 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
4a : an abstract composition or creation in art

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from abstraction

abstractional \ ab-​ˈstrak-​shnəl How to pronounce abstraction (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , əb-​ \ adjective
abstractive \ ab-​ˈstrak-​tiv How to pronounce abstraction (audio) , ˈab-​ˌstrak-​ \ adjective

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.

Examples of abstraction in a Sentence

abstraction of data from hospital records “Beauty” and “truth” are abstractions. She gazed out the window in abstraction.
Recent Examples on the Web The austere brown background was a haunting stylistic departure for Basquiat who layered text and image, abstraction, and figuration, into dense large-scale paintings that often repeated his signature skulls and crowns. Natasha Gural, Forbes, 30 Aug. 2021 Howe wasn’t the only artist to feel frustrated with its limitations, and several of his contemporaries were also exploring abstraction in the ’50s. Susannah Gardiner, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Apr. 2022 The artist successfully pursued abstraction for almost two decades. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 22 Apr. 2022 What resources does abstraction provide, specifically for Black American artists? New York Times, 31 Mar. 2022 The other, No. 1, an orange and pink abstraction, is estimated at $45 million–$65 million. Angelica Villa For Artnews, Robb Report, 31 Mar. 2022 American art was swept up in the post-war rage for abstraction. Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2022 In those moments, his words seemed like an abstraction. Chris Megerian, Vanessa Gera And Aamer Madhani, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Mar. 2022 The writing, too, is not in a voice honed for Twitter, which tends to abandon excessive description and abstraction. Lauren Oyler, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

First Known Use of abstraction

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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 abstract entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About abstraction

Time Traveler for abstraction

Time Traveler

The first known use of abstraction was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near abstraction

abstract expressionism



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for abstraction

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for abstraction


ab·​strac·​tion | \ ab-ˈstrak-shən How to pronounce abstraction (audio) \

Kids Definition of abstraction

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

More from Merriam-Webster on abstraction

Nglish: Translation of abstraction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstraction for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about abstraction


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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