[ab-sten-shuh n]


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 formsab·sten·tious, adjectivenon·ab·sten·tion, nounun·ab·sten·tious, adjective
Can be confusedabstention abstinence
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for abstention

Contemporary Examples of abstention

Historical Examples of abstention

  • 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.


    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 Formsabstentious, adjective

Word Origin for abstention

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

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