- The definition of abstain is choosing to not do something.
An example of abstain is to not eat animal products during Lent.
- Abstain means to not vote.
An example of abstain would be a senator who chooses not to vote on a particular bill.
Origin of abstainMiddle English absteinen ; from Old French abstenir ; from Classical Latin abstinere, to hold back ; from ab(s)-, from + tenere, to hold: see tenant
intransitive verbab·stained, ab·stain·ing, ab·stains
- To keep oneself from doing, engaging in, or partaking of something; refrain: abstain from partisan political rhetoric; abstain from drinking alcohol.
- To refrain from voting: Forty senators voted in favor of the bill, 45 voted against it, and 15 abstained.
Origin of abstainMiddle English absteinen, to avoid, from Old French abstenir, from Latin abstinēre, to hold back : abs-, ab-, away; see ab–1 + tenēre, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.
(third-person singular simple present abstains, present participle abstaining, simple past and past participle abstained)
- (intransitive) Refrain from (something); hold one's self aloof; to forbear or keep from doing, especially an indulgence of the passions or appetites. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- Who abstains from meat that is not gaunt? - Shakespeare, Richard II, II-i
- (intransitive) Deliberately refrain from casting one's vote at a meeting where one is present. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- Not a few abstained from voting. - Thomas Babington Macaulay
- (keep or withhold oneself): Followed by the word from or of.
- (refrain from something): Followed by the word from.