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 The pure abstraction and infinite possibilities of online existence still suit and excite me, and returning to material things and the obligations of creaturely existence can feel like a comedown. 1843, "The internet, mon amour," 19 June 2020 To appreciate these ideas is to appreciate a form of abstraction, and this sense of aesthetics often feels cold and formal. Quanta Magazine, "The Two Forms of Mathematical Beauty," 16 June 2020 But in a republic on the brink of a legitimacy crisis, a country where the highest office is held by a brute and would-be authoritarian, state violence is not an academic abstraction but a constantly looming menace. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "The Tom Cotton Op-Ed and the Tired Old “Snowflake” Defense," 10 June 2020 The words that distance protesters from their righteous anger can also treat George Floyd, the father and community leader, as an abstraction. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The George Floyd Protests Are Not ‘Chaos’," 2 June 2020 These moments insert an almost diaristic chatter into the usual silence of abstraction. Matthew Bourbon, Dallas News, "Artist Mark Bradford finds allure in the everyday detritus of the world," 22 Apr. 2020 Barb’s threat of forcing everyone to listen to hard rock forever is several degrees of abstraction removed from the Bergens literally wanting to put the trolls in a pot and eat them for dinner. Christian Holub, EW.com, "Trolls World Tour is singing Infinity War's tune without the stakes: Review," 10 Apr. 2020 Hittman creates an intimate drama that’s also a story of the social fabric and, in particular, its bureaucratic abstractions and administrative minefields. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Reviewed: Eliza Hittman’s Ingenious Portrait of the Bureaucracy of Abortion," 12 Mar. 2020 Her abstraction of programming is at the root of all modern programming languages and earned Liskov the Turing Award in 2008. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "The Unusualness of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella," 25 Nov. 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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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

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for abstraction


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


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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