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[ab-strak-shuh n] /æbˈstræk ʃən/
an abstract or general idea or term.
the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.
an impractical idea; something visionary and unrealistic.
the act of taking away or separating; withdrawal:
The sensation of cold is due to the abstraction of heat from our bodies.
secret removal, especially theft.
absent-mindedness; inattention; mental absorption.
Fine Arts.
  1. the abstract qualities or characteristics of a work of art.
  2. a work of art, especially a nonrepresentational one, stressing formal relationships.
Origin of abstraction
1540-50; < Late Latin abstractiōn- (stem of abstractiō) separation. See abstract, -ion
Related forms
abstractional, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for abstraction
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When Lester returned, he saw her standing by his desk, lost in an abstraction of grief.

    The Coryston Family Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • The latter was a curious example of what I have described as abstraction of color.

  • And the great aim of education is the cultivation of the habit of abstraction.

    The Republic Plato
  • This abstraction is the far-off heaven on which the eye of the mind is fixed in fond amazement.

    Symposium Plato
  • Another says, 'No, not fire in the abstract, but the abstraction of heat in the fire.'

    Cratylus Plato
British Dictionary definitions for abstraction


absence of mind; preoccupation
the process of formulating generalized ideas or concepts by extracting common qualities from specific examples
an idea or concept formulated in this way: good and evil are abstractions
(logic) an operator that forms a class name or predicate from any given expression See also lambda calculus
an abstract painting, sculpture, etc
the act of withdrawing or removing
Derived Forms
abstractive, adjective
abstractively, adverb
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 abstraction

c.1400, "withdrawal from worldly affairs, asceticism," from Old French abstraction (14c.), from Latin abstractionem (nominative abstractio), noun of action from past participle stem of abstrahere (see abstract (adj.)). Meaning "idea of something that has no actual existence" is from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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abstraction in Medicine

abstraction ab·strac·tion (āb-strāk'shən, əb-)

  1. Distillation or separation of the volatile constituents of a substance.

  2. Exclusive mental concentration; absent-mindedness.

  3. A malocclusion in which the teeth or associated structures are lower than their normal occlusal plane.

  4. The selection of a certain aspect of a concept from the whole.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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