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

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

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web Death is an abstraction to most kids, especially to one who’s this defiantly optimistic about life. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, 13 June 2022 But the misery low-earning Britons are experiencing now is not an abstraction. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 18 May 2022 Nordin says the progressives reminded voters that LGBTQ students exist in the Eau Claire district and aren’t an abstraction, and some of them don’t live in homes where they’re accepted, which makes the role of school pretty important in their lives. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 25 Apr. 2022 But while Cézanne’s flirtation with and flights into abstraction are ever present — and with them the invitation to pareidolia — the show also reminds us how grounded the painter was in actual things. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 15 June 2022 Several younger painters today play at hybridizing representation and abstraction. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 6 June 2022 Large scale, pastel colored oil paintings, in the German artist’s trademark style that blends abstraction and figuration, are a startling contrast to the heritage building. Joanne Shurvell, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 Where each of those painters walked right up to the line between figuration and abstraction, often combining the two, Weaver’s own style was highly mannered. Marley Marius, Vogue, 27 Jan. 2022 Money provides an asset abstraction layer for decentralized applications. Benjamin Laker, Forbes, 27 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near abstraction

abstract expressionism



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Last Updated

30 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abstraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstraction. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for abstraction


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

More from Merriam-Webster on abstraction

Nglish: Translation of abstraction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abstraction for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about abstraction


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