[ab-strak-shuh n]
See more synonyms for abstraction on Thesaurus.com
  1. an abstract or general idea or term.
  2. the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.
  3. an impractical idea; something visionary and unrealistic.
  4. the act of taking away or separating; withdrawal: The sensation of cold is due to the abstraction of heat from our bodies.
  5. secret removal, especially theft.
  6. absent-mindedness; inattention; mental absorption.
  7. Fine Arts.
    1. the abstract qualities or characteristics of a work of art.
    2. a work of art, especially a nonrepresentational one, stressing formal relationships.

Origin of abstraction

1540–50; < Late Latin abstractiōn- (stem of abstractiō) separation. See abstract, -ion
Related formsab·strac·tion·al, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for abstraction

Contemporary Examples of abstraction

Historical Examples of abstraction

  • When Lester returned, he saw her standing by his desk, lost in an abstraction of grief.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • The latter was a curious example of what I have described as abstraction of color.

  • And the great aim of education is the cultivation of the habit of abstraction.

  • This abstraction is the far-off heaven on which the eye of the mind is fixed in fond amazement.

  • Another says, 'No, not fire in the abstract, but the abstraction of heat in the fire.'

British Dictionary definitions for abstraction


  1. absence of mind; preoccupation
  2. the process of formulating generalized ideas or concepts by extracting common qualities from specific examples
  3. an idea or concept formulated in this waygood and evil are abstractions
  4. logic an operator that forms a class name or predicate from any given expressionSee also lambda calculus
  5. an abstract painting, sculpture, etc
  6. the act of withdrawing or removing
Derived Formsabstractive, adjectiveabstractively, adverb
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 abstraction

c.1400, "withdrawal from worldly affairs, asceticism," from Old French abstraction (14c.), from Latin abstractionem (nominative abstractio), noun of action from past participle stem of abstrahere (see abstract (adj.)). Meaning "idea of something that has no actual existence" is from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

abstraction in Medicine


[ăb-străkshən, əb-]
  1. Distillation or separation of the volatile constituents of a substance.
  2. Exclusive mental concentration; absent-mindedness.
  3. A malocclusion in which the teeth or associated structures are lower than their normal occlusal plane.
  4. The selection of a certain aspect of a concept from the whole.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.