[ ab-steyn ]
See synonyms for: abstainabstaining on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
  1. to hold oneself back voluntarily, especially from something regarded as improper or unhealthy (usually followed by from): to abstain from eating meat.

  2. to refrain from casting one's vote: a referendum in which two delegates abstained.

Origin of abstain

1350–1400; Middle English abste(i)nen<Middle French abstenir ≪ Latin abstinēre, equivalent to abs-abs- + -tinēre, combining form of tenēre to hold, keep

Other words for abstain

Opposites for abstain

Other words from abstain

  • non·ab·stain·ing, adjective
  • o·ver·ab·stain, verb (used without object)

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

How to use abstain in a sentence

  • Mitt Romney, who has abstained from the frenzy so far, asks whether the state sales tax will go away; Cain called it an orange.

    Best Moments From the GOP Debate | The Daily Beast Video | October 19, 2011 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Romney, who has abstained from the frenzy so far, asks whether the state sales tax will go away, Cain says it's an orange.

  • It may be that gasolene and repairs cost more than a railroad fare once a week, but I have abstained from making a comparison.

    Ancestors | Gertrude Atherton
  • In foreign affairs the house, in its immense majority, abstained from even the faintest attempt at interference.

  • Though parliament had frequently imposed port-duties on the colonies, it had abstained from imposing taxes within them.

  • Under the influence of this conviction, he abstained, for an unusual period, from visiting the Black Fort.

    Peveril of the Peak | Sir Walter Scott
  • Reader, this was a question which I most carefully abstained from asking myself.

    Frank Fairlegh | Frank E. Smedley

British Dictionary definitions for abstain


/ (əbˈsteɪn) /

verb(intr usually foll by from)
  1. to choose to refrain: he abstained from alcohol

  2. to refrain from voting, esp in a committee, legislature, etc

Origin of abstain

C14: via Old French from Latin abstinēre, from abs- ab- 1 + tenēre to hold, keep

Derived forms of abstain

  • abstainer, noun

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