abstraction

noun
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

Other Words from abstraction

abstractional \ ab-​ˈstrak-​shnəl How to pronounce abstractional (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , əb-​ \ adjective
abstractive \ ab-​ˈstrak-​tiv How to pronounce abstractive (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The two may seem like opposites — 1920s Spanish baroque and punchy Day-Glo abstraction — but each is happy to put on a show. John King, SFChronicle.com, "Oakland’s new housing towers: So-so on the skyline, but one soars on the street," 6 Jan. 2020 In both situations — whether starting or stopping habits — designing for specific behaviors (instead of abstractions) is essential. Popular Science, "Reverse your bad habits with just a handful of tiny changes," 31 Dec. 2019 The Nabis stopped short, however, of total abstraction. Washington Post, "These painters found calm in an age of distraction — more than a century ago," 23 Dec. 2019 The story of modernism – the progressive series of movements and revolutions in representation and abstraction that started in the mid 19th century – turns out to be far richer and more complex in the new MoMa than the old one ever suggested. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Don’t let crowds deter you from visiting the expanded Museum of Modern Art in New York," 24 Nov. 2019 In the fine arts, conceptualism overtook both figurative work and abstraction in the 20th century, giving the idea of a creative work more weight than its aesthetic or representational properties. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Video Games Are Better Without Game-Play," 22 Oct. 2019 To explore the topic, with all its challenges and abstractions, is to embrace the universe’s greatness, to make sense of the real and explore the mysterious, to dip our toes in the infinite and recognize that many of our limits are self-imposed. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Two new books will transform your everyday understanding of math," 17 June 2019 But the broken freezer on top of the world has remained an abstraction for most of the planet’s 7.7 billion people. Anchorage Daily News, "Sea ice experts from Nome and Unalakleet share what they’re seeing with scientists," 14 Dec. 2019 The participants, all based in Washington, both draw from and defy the principles of mid-20th-century abstraction. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: ‘Sea of Change’ exhibition sets the voyage on a different course," 6 Dec. 2019

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.

See 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

Statistics for abstraction

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abstraction

abstraction

noun
How to pronounce abstraction (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of abstraction

: the act of obtaining or removing something from a source : the act of abstracting something
formal : a general idea or quality rather than an actual person, object, or event : an abstract idea or quality
somewhat formal : the state of someone who is not paying attention to what is happening or being said : an abstracted state

abstraction

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on abstraction

What made you want to look up abstraction? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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