abstraction

noun

ab·​strac·​tion ab-ˈstrak-shən How to pronounce abstraction (audio)
əb-
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
abstractional 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 Botero never pursued abstraction, preferring instead to depict inflated figures. Pablo Helguera, Los Angeles Times, 19 Sep. 2023 In challenging cases, in which bones are severely burnt, traditional labs can carry out more advanced abstraction of the DNA. Jenny Jarvie, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Sep. 2023 The performance, no less than the script, reduces the protagonist to an abstraction created to be analyzed. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 26 July 2023 The paintings run the gamut of abstraction, from moody to exuberant. Kriston Capps, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 Images of lotus blossoms and trippy New Age abstractions suggest the spiritual focus and expansiveness of Shorter’s music. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Aug. 2023 The installation’s skein of lines might thus be read as mere abstraction, like a Jackson Pollock on the grass. Blake Gopnik, New York Times, 18 Aug. 2023 Ukrainians may be defending their country for the sake of abstractions such as democracy or Europe. Michael Kimmage, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 Even those who feel at home with equations and abstraction can benefit from narrowing the gap between the arts and sciences. Audrey G. Bennett, The Conversation, 10 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abstraction.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near abstraction

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition

abstraction

noun
ab·​strac·​tion ab-ˈstrak-shən How to pronounce abstraction (audio)
1
a
: the act or process of abstracting : the state of being abstracted
b
: an abstract idea or term
2
: an artistic composition or creation having designs that do not represent actual objects
abstractive adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on abstraction

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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