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 \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Given a choice between an alarming abstraction (death) and the reassuring evidence of my senses (breakfast!), my mind prefers to focus on the latter. Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker, "What If We Stopped Pretending?," 8 Sep. 2019 Modern quantum theories long ago did away with electric and magnetic fields as concrete structures and replaced them with a hard-to-interpret mathematical abstraction. George Musser, Scientific American, "The Search for Truth in Physics," 25 Aug. 2019 Perhaps people place so much importance on this revelation because, until that point, the child remains an idea, a featureless abstraction. Carina Chocano, New York Times, "When Gender Reveal Videos Go Spectacularly, Cathartically Wrong," 1 Aug. 2019 Roosevelt was criticized for a Wilsonian idealism, presenting the Four Freedoms as abstractions, as universal. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "A Closer Look at Rockwell’s Four Freedoms," 22 June 2019 But unlike a lot of hard-edge abstraction, the stripes vary serendipitously in width and intensity. Sharon Mizota, Los Angeles Times, "For these 20 women artists, ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Dyketactics’ are just the beginning," 16 Aug. 2019 Ranging from realism to abstraction, their work varies in other ways as well. Mike Giuliano, baltimoresun.com, "Artists converge at Meeting House Gallery in Columbia," 9 Aug. 2019 These stark scenes, with lots of passages of white-on-white set against blue skies, slow how smoothly realism elides into abstraction. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition Takes a Traditional Turn," 13 July 2019 For the Ifugao, scientific procedures and international health standards can feel like abstractions from another belief system being imposed on their own. Carlo Gabuco, National Geographic, "Death rituals help restless spirits find peace in the Philippines," 9 Apr. 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.

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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

30 Sep 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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