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

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Other Words from abstraction

abstractional \ -​shnəl How to pronounce abstractional (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
abstractive \ ab-​ˈstrak-​tiv How to pronounce abstractive (audio) , 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Hearing about refugees being deported is an abstraction — watching a loving couple forcibly separated by the government is a powerful, empathy-driving moment. Liz Shannon Miller, The Verge, "Russell T. Davies’ miniseries Years and Years is Black Mirror with a heart," 24 June 2019 But perhaps the most critical feature is that two of those three options—the ones involving using the GMO crop product in animal feed—provide a layer of abstraction between the GMO crop and human consumption. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Why haven’t genetically engineered crops made food better?," 4 June 2019 In 1985 Von Heyl moved to New York and soon began to attract attention for her confident optical abstractions. David Salle, The New York Review of Books, "Houdini with a Brush," 9 May 2019 Believing that the public was not yet ready for her spiritually informed art, Af Klint exhibited only a few of her abstractions during her lifetime. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future’ Review: Modernism’s Missing Link?," 13 Oct. 2018 For his part, Fortner smoothly interjected a few bars of stride piano and some Thelonious Monk-like abstractions. Dan Emerson, Twin Cities, "Cecile McLorin Salvant gives a nimble performance at the Dakota," 19 June 2019 Each of Burr’s geometric abstractions is a series of wooden boards — some black, some white, some natural color — hinged together. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "Two very different approaches to LGBTQ history at Atheneum, CHS," 18 June 2019 For the nations of Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, NATO is no abstraction. Marc Santora, New York Times, "Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.," 10 July 2018 First glimpsed through a window while lifting weights, Sparsholt is an enticing abstraction: a figure of beguiling mystery and a near-universal object of desire. Priscilla Gilman, BostonGlobe.com, "An English political scandal and gay lives over decades," 9 Mar. 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.

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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

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Statistics for abstraction

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for abstraction

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

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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
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

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Comments on abstraction

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to form ideas or theories about something

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