Abstain Definition

ăb-stān, əb-
abstained, abstaining, abstains
abstained, abstaining, abstains
To keep oneself from doing, engaging in, or partaking of something; refrain.
Abstain from partisan political rhetoric; abstain from drinking alcohol.
American Heritage
To hold oneself back; voluntarily do without; refrain (from)
To abstain from smoking.
Webster's New World
To refrain from voting.
Forty senators voted in favor of the bill, 45 voted against it, and 15 abstained.
American Heritage

(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.]


(intransitive) Deliberately refrain from casting one's vote at a meeting where one is present. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]


Origin of Abstain

  • First attested around 1380. From Middle English abstene, absteine, absteynen, absteinen, abstenen, from Old French astenir, abstenir, from Latin abstineō (“to hold oneself back”) from abs- (“from”) + (tineō (“hold”), from teneō (“I hold”)). See also tenable.

    From Wiktionary

  • Middle English absteinen to avoid from Old French abstenir from Latin abstinēre to hold back abs-, ab- away ab–1 tenēre to hold ten- in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

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