[ uh-bawr-shuhn ]
See synonyms for abortion on Thesaurus.com
  1. Also called voluntary abortion. the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.

  2. any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.

  1. Also called spontaneous abortion. miscarriage (def. 1).

  2. an immature and nonviable fetus.

  3. any malformed or monstrous person, thing, etc.

  4. Biology. the arrested development of an embryo or an organ at a more or less early stage.

  5. the stopping of an illness, infection, etc., at a very early stage.

  6. Informal.

    • shambles; mess.

    • anything that fails to develop, progress, or mature, as a design or project.

Origin of abortion

First recorded in 1540–50, abortion is from the Latin word abortiōn- (stem of abortiō). See abort, -ion

Other words from abortion

  • post·a·bor·tion, adjective

Words Nearby abortion

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use abortion in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for abortion


/ (əˈbɔːʃən) /

  1. an operation or other procedure to terminate pregnancy before the fetus is viable

  2. the premature termination of pregnancy by spontaneous or induced expulsion of a nonviable fetus from the uterus

  1. the products of abortion; an aborted fetus

  2. the arrest of development of an organ

  3. a failure to develop to completion or maturity: the project proved an abortion

  4. a person or thing that is deformed

Derived forms of abortion

  • abortional, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for abortion


[ ə-bôrshən ]

  1. Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.

  2. Any of various procedures that result in such termination.

  1. Spontaneous abortion; miscarriage.

  2. Cessation of a normal or abnormal process before completion.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for abortion (1 of 2)


The deliberate termination of a pregnancy, usually before the embryo or fetus is capable of independent life. In medical contexts, this procedure is called an induced abortion and is distinguished from a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or stillbirth.

Notes for abortion

Abortion laws are extremely controversial. Those who describe themselves as “pro-choice” believe that the decision to have an abortion should be left to the mother. In contrast, the “pro-life” faction, arguing that abortion is killing, holds that the state should prohibit abortion in most cases. Feminists (see feminism) (see also feminism) and liberals generally support the pro-choice side; Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists generally back the pro-life side. (See Roe versus Wade.)

The ending of pregnancy and expulsion of the embryo or fetus, generally before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving on its own. Abortion may be brought on intentionally by artificial means (induced abortion) or may occur naturally (spontaneous abortion, which is commonly referred to as a miscarriage). (Compare stillbirth; see also family planning and population control.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.