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.

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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. 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 Republicans picked up 47 seats in the chamber last November, but our sources say that some members want to duck controversy and may abstain from the vote. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 2 June 2021 Promoting abstinence won’t work because many young people who plan to abstain don’t actually do so. Time, 17 Sep. 2021 Act, which would eliminate the right of workers in 27 states to abstain from supporting a union, among other changes. Sean Higgins, National Review, 6 Sep. 2021 Alyssa, respecting Kyland's nominations, chooses to abstain from using her own veto. Kyle Fowle, EW.com, 20 Aug. 2021 With Jewish community members among the many unaccounted for in the high-rise's sudden destruction this week, Friday evening observances of Shabbat - a religious day of rest where many abstain from work and electronics - took a mournful turn. BostonGlobe.com, 26 June 2021 As part of the boycott, streamers will abstain from using Twitch to show solidarity with marginalized creators and to raise attention to the harassment of streamers. NBC News, 1 Sep. 2021 Companies should abstain from contributing to the gyre of empty corporate-speak and ‘walk the talk’ of fair remuneration of their workers—and if not for the welfare of workers, then for their bottom line. Neema Iyer, Quartz, 31 Aug. 2021 After all, fans would not question it if an athlete had to abstain from a sporting event due to a physical injury. Sandra Cumper Boynton, sun-sentinel.com, 6 Aug. 2021

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.

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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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Time Traveler for abstain

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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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Statistics for abstain

Last Updated

6 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abstain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstain. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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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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