• synonyms


[adjective ab-strakt, ab-strakt; noun ab-strakt; verb ab-strakt for 10–13, ab-strakt for 14]
  1. thought of apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances: an abstract idea.
  2. expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance, as justice, poverty, and speed.
  3. theoretical; not applied or practical: abstract science.
  4. difficult to understand; abstruse: abstract speculations.
  5. Fine Arts.
    1. of or relating to the formal aspect of art, emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, etc., especially with reference to their relationship to one another.
    2. (often initial capital letter)pertaining to the nonrepresentational art styles of the 20th century.
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  1. a summary of a text, scientific article, document, speech, etc.; epitome.
  2. something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.
  3. an idea or term considered apart from some material basis or object.
  4. an abstract work of art.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to draw or take away; remove.
  2. to divert or draw away the attention of.
  3. to steal.
  4. to consider as a general quality or characteristic apart from specific objects or instances: to abstract the notions of time, space, and matter.
  5. to make an abstract of; summarize.
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  1. abstract away from, to omit from consideration.
  2. in the abstract, without reference to a specific object or instance; in theory: beauty in the abstract.
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Origin of abstract

1400–50; late Middle English: withdrawn from worldly interests < Latin abstractus drawn off (past participle of abstrahere). See abs-, tract1
Related formsab·stract·er, nounab·stract·ly, adverbab·stract·ness, nounnon·ab·stract, adjective, nounnon·ab·stract·ly, adverbnon·ab·stract·ness, nouno·ver·ab·stract, verb (used with object), adjectivepre·ab·stract, adjectivesu·per·ab·stract, adjectivesu·per·ab·stract·ly, adverbsu·per·ab·stract·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for abstracting

philosophical, unreal, hypothetical, abstruse, ideal, complex, deep, intellectual, compendium, condensation, outline, brief, summary, synopsis, conspectus, digest, abridgment, dissociate, disconnect, separate

Examples from the Web for abstracting

Historical Examples of abstracting

  • If you grasp it, by abstracting from it even being, you will be in ecstasy.

    Plotinos: Complete Works, v. 2

    Plotinos (Plotinus)

  • Now to deplete is to check growth by abstracting the very source of nutriment.

    The Horse's Mouth

    Edward Mayhew

  • Man has the happy faculty of abstracting his attention from things remote.

    Creed And Deed

    Felix Adler

  • But our mind knows by abstracting from such the species, that is, the universal.

  • Acquisition by agreement of right of abstracting water from the river.


    W. B. Woodgate

British Dictionary definitions for abstracting


adjective (ˈæbstrækt)
  1. having no reference to material objects or specific examples; not concrete
  2. not applied or practical; theoretical
  3. hard to understand; recondite; abstruse
  4. denoting art characterized by geometric, formalized, or otherwise nonrepresentational qualities
  5. defined in terms of its formal propertiesan abstract machine
  6. philosophy (of an idea) functioning for some empiricists as the meaning of a general termthe word ``man'' does not name all men but the abstract idea of manhood
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noun (ˈæbstrækt)
  1. a condensed version of a piece of writing, speech, etc; summary
  2. an abstract term or idea
  3. an abstract painting, sculpture, etc
  4. in the abstract without reference to specific circumstances or practical experience
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verb (æbˈstrækt) (tr)
  1. to think of (a quality or concept) generally without reference to a specific example; regard theoretically
  2. to form (a general idea) by abstraction
  3. (ˈæbstrækt) (also intr) to summarize or epitomize
  4. to remove or extract
  5. euphemistic to steal
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Word Origin for abstract

C14: (in the sense: extracted): from Latin abstractus drawn off, removed from (something specific), from abs- ab- 1 + trahere to draw
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 abstracting



"abridgement or summary of a document," mid-15c., from abstract (adj.). The general sense of "a smaller quantity containing the virtue or power of a greater" [Johnson] is recorded from 1560s.

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1540s, from Latin abstractus or else from the adjective abstract. Related: Abstracted; abstracting, abstractedly.

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late 14c., originally in grammar (of nouns), from Latin abstractus "drawn away," past participle of abstrahere "to drag away; detach divert," from ab(s)- "away" (see ab-) + trahere "draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Meaning "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" is from mid-15c. That of "difficult to understand, abstruse" is from c.1400. Specifically in reference to modern art, it dates from 1914; abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollack is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.

Oswald Herzog, in an article on "Der Abstrakte Expressionismus" (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. "Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism," he writes. "It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..." [William A. Drake, "The Life and Deeds of Dada," 1922]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

abstracting in Medicine


(ăb-străkt, ăbstrăkt′)
  1. Considered apart from concrete existence.
  2. Not applied or practical; theoretical.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.