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 \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Mehretu kept moving, and in the process forged a new sort of decolonial abstraction right inside the tradition of Western art. Jason Farago, New York Times, "Julie Mehretu’s Long Journey Home," 25 Mar. 2021 Beethoven, in and out of scare quotes, has become a godlike abstraction of himself, complete with one-word moniker — his music less a product of culture than a feature of nature. Washington Post, "The best way to honor Beethoven’s 250th? Listen to every note he ever wrote.," 24 Dec. 2020 Mutability is a central theme of these paintings, which show a body that melds with the visual language of abstraction. Washington Post, "In the galleries: A painful, political take on the art of cruel shoes," 9 Apr. 2021 The audience, for Gorman, is not an abstraction but a collaborator in her mode of rousing, outward-facing, and civic-minded poetical speech. Doreen St. Félix, Vogue, "The Rise and Rise of Amanda Gorman," 7 Apr. 2021 For most people, the price-equals-wealth fallacy is only an economic abstraction. William Baldwin, Forbes, "Three Fallacies Of Wealth Creation, And Three Antidotes," 20 Mar. 2021 Before Minnie Bell’s, my understanding of great macaroni and cheese — a version of the classic American noodle dish that could stand alone on its own merits — was mostly an abstraction. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, "An ode to Minnie Bell's gooey mac and cheese, the best in the Bay Area," 9 Mar. 2021 Her paintings have so much going on in them — figuration as well as abstraction; swirling lines as well as filaments of color; subtle references to history as well as a clear engagement with current events. New York Times, "Julie Mehretu’s Reckoning With Success," 21 Mar. 2021 Gumby's work resembles that of the Color Field movement that emerged in midcentury New York as well as 20th century abstraction more generally. Ian Malone, Vogue, "The Atomic, Cosmic Art of Alteronce Gumby," 18 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for abstraction

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for abstraction

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for abstraction



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


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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