or ab·sti·nen·cy

[ab-stuh-nuhns or ab-stuh-nuhn-see]


forbearance from any indulgence of appetite, especially from the use of alcoholic beverages: total abstinence.
any self-restraint, self-denial, or forbearance.
Economics. the conserving of current income in order to build up capital or savings.
the state of being without a drug, as alcohol or heroin, on which one is dependent.

Origin of abstinence

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English word from Latin word abstinentia. See abstain, -ence
Related formsab·sti·nent, adjectiveab·sti·nent·ly, adverbpro·ab·sti·nence, adjective
Can be confusedabstention abstinence

Synonyms for abstinence

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for abstinence

Contemporary Examples of abstinence

Historical Examples of abstinence

  • Now that we have dined well, I would like to say aword on abstinence.

  • When abstinence is the only choice, an ascetic frame of mind comes easy.

    My Reminiscences

    Rabindranath Tagore

  • You will meet my abstinence by the only amends you can make to me.

  • It is abstinence from evil quite as much as eager realization of good.

    Strong Souls

    Charles Beard

  • The Ihrm must be put on, and the obligations of abstinence which it entails must be observed.

British Dictionary definitions for abstinence



the act or practice of refraining from some action or from the use of something, esp alcohol
mainly RC Church the practice of refraining from specific kinds of food or drink, esp from meat, as an act of penance
Derived Formsabstinent, adjective

Word Origin for abstinence

C13: via Old French from Latin abstinentia, from abstinēre to 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 abstinence

mid-14c., "forbearance in indulgence of the appetites," from Old French abstinence (earlier astenance), from Latin abstinentia, noun of quality from abstinentem (nominative abstinens), present participle of abstinere (see abstain). Specifically of sexual appetites from mid-14c., but also in Middle English of food, fighting, luxury.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

abstinence in Medicine




The act or practice of refraining from indulgence in an appetite, as for certain foods, drink, alcoholic beverages, drugs, or sex.
Related formsabsti•nent adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.