abstain

verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān How to pronounce abstain (audio) , ab- \
abstained; abstaining; abstains

Definition of abstain

intransitive verb

1 : to choose not to do or have something : to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice abstain from drinking
2 : to choose not to vote Ten members voted for the proposal, six members voted against it, and two abstained.

Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun

Did you know?

If you abstain, you're consciously, and usually with effort, choosing to hold back from doing something that you would like to do. One may abstain from a vice, for example, or in parliamentary procedure, one might abstain from placing a vote. So it's no surprise that abstain traces back through Middle English and Anglo-French to the Latin abstinēre, which combines the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with tenēre, a Latin verb meaning "to hold." Tenēre has many offspring in English—other descendants include contain, detain, maintain, obtain, pertain, retain, and sustain, as well as some words that don't end in -tain, such as tenacious. Abstain, like many of its cousins, has been used by English speakers since at least the 14th century.

Examples of abstain in a Sentence

Ten members voted for the proposal, six members voted against it, and two abstained.
Recent Examples on the Web Those who observe Yom Kippur traditionally abstain from comforts (like wearing leather shoes or jewelry), wear white (to symbolize a clean slate and fresh start), and spend the day in Yom Kippur prayer. Alesandra Dubin, Woman's Day, 11 Aug. 2022 While 28 African nations voted in favor of the resolution, a significant minority of countries on the continent – 25 – either voted to abstain or did not vote at all. Andrew Meldrum And Mogomotsi Magome, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 July 2022 However, this logic often isn't applied to those who choose to abstain. Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY, 24 May 2022 At the Tuesday meeting, Assembly members John Weddleton and Jamie Allard refused to vote, leaving the room to abstain. Emily Goodykoontz, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Feb. 2022 That's twice as many as those in the placebo group who were able to abstain, Bogenschutz said. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 24 Aug. 2022 Later, their father encouraged them to abstain from drinking, and Beau took these warnings to heart. Adam Entous, The New Yorker, 15 Aug. 2022 At his arraignment Wednesday, Griffiths was given bail of $10,000 and ordered to abstain from alcohol, submit to random testing, and wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet, prosecutors said. Jeremy C. Fox, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 If someone wants to avoid probing questions about their alcohol consumption, there are some ways to abstain from drinking without being obvious. Amy Haneline, USA TODAY, 22 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abstain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of abstain

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abstain

Middle English absteinen, abstenen, borrowed from Anglo-French asteign-, absteign-, stem of astenir, abstenir, borrowed (with conjugation change, conformed to tenir) from Latin abstinēre "to keep from, hold back, refrain, withhold oneself from," from abs- (variant of ab- ab- before c- and t-) + tenēre "to hold, occupy, possess" — more at tenant entry 1

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The first known use of abstain was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near abstain

absque impetitione vasti

abstain

abstemious

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for abstain

abstain

verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān How to pronounce abstain (audio) \
abstained; abstaining

Kids Definition of abstain

: to choose not to do or have something abstain from voting

Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun

abstain

intransitive verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān, ab- How to pronounce abstain (audio) \

Medical Definition of abstain

: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice (as consumption of a food or a drug or indulgence in sexual intercourse)

Other Words from abstain

abstainer noun

abstain

intransitive verb
ab·​stain | \ əb-ˈstān, ab- How to pronounce abstain (audio) \

Legal Definition of abstain

: to refrain from exercising federal jurisdiction over a case : cause an abstention federal courts should normally abstain from intervening in pending court-martial proceedingsHamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006)

More from Merriam-Webster on abstain

Nglish: Translation of abstain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstain for Arabic Speakers

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