abstraction

noun
ab·​strac·​tion | \ ab-ˈstrak-shən, 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 \ -​shnəl , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
abstractive \ ab-​ˈstrak-​tiv , ˈab-​ˌ \ 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

As with all of Arp’s shifting abstractions, however, its forms are all and, fleetingly, none of those things. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘The Nature of Arp’ Review: Revolutionary Forms," 30 Oct. 2018 Ansel doesn’t repudiate narrative with abstraction in the manner of her modernist forefathers. Cate Mcquaid, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Pushing Painting’ presents the medium’s possibilities," 20 June 2018 Klee opened up for me not just the world of abstraction, but the world of art. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "A Life-Changing Art Encounter," 23 Nov. 2018 The piece is largely abstract and full of abstractions, Jan admits. Ryan Kost, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lars Jan explores father’s past, paranoia during YBCA festival," 15 May 2018 The Cool School influence is apparent in the restraint and gentle abstractions, but there’s a litheness to the players’ interactions. Martin Johnson, WSJ, "‘Temporary Kings’ Review: Alluringly Reserved," 11 Sep. 2018 Schroeder, in the meantime, mixes material and technique, creating abstractions that feature solid blocks of acrylic color against bits of spray and transparent, watery shades. Carolina A. Miranda, latimes.com, "Datebook: Portraits of peers, collages inspired by the African diaspora and art for feline lovers," 14 June 2018 Many of the works are composed of multiple, fragmentary objects made of plain canvas or lead wrapped around stretchers, which build up to loopy, engaging, figurative abstractions. Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle, "Charles Desmarais’ art picks for April 29," 4 May 2018 For that matter, that earlier generation of artists also was inclined to find metaphysical ideas percolating in their all-over painterly abstraction. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "Artist gets metaphysical at Columbia Art Center," 6 July 2018

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

Share abstraction

Statistics for abstraction

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for abstraction

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abstraction

abstraction

noun

English Language Learners Definition of abstraction

: 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

noun
ab·​strac·​tion | \ ab-ˈstrak-shən \

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

a complex dispute or argument

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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!