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[ab-sten-shuh n] /æbˈstɛn ʃən/
an act or instance of abstaining.
withholding of a vote.
Origin of abstention
1515-25; < Late Latin abstentiōn- (stem of abstentiō), equivalent to Latin abstent(us), past participle of abstinēre to abstain + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
abstentious, adjective
nonabstention, noun
unabstentious, adjective
Can be confused
abstention, abstinence. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for abstention
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The week's end found him a little further in debt, in spite of abstention.

    Despair's Last Journey David Christie Murray
  • Then your whole service has been abstention from positive treachery for your own ends?

    The False Chevalier William Douw Lighthall
  • Their abstention was not noticed by their fellows in the excitement of the time.

    The Duke's Motto Justin Huntly McCarthy
  • Why should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue?

  • Political liberty, however, has not only a meaning of abstention, but a meaning of participation.

    Voltaire John Morley
British Dictionary definitions for abstention


a voluntary decision not to act; the act of refraining or abstaining
the act of withholding one's vote
Derived Forms
abstentious, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin abstentiōn-, from Latin abstinēre. See abstain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abstention

1520s, from Middle French abstention (Old French astencion), from Late Latin abstentionem (nominative abstentio) "the act of retaining," noun of action from past participle stem of abstinere (see abstain).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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