First attested around 1380. From Middle English absteynen, absteinen, abstenen, from Old French astenir, abstenir, from ලතින් abstineō (“to hold oneself back”) from abs- (“from”) + teneō (“I hold”). See also tenable.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /əbˈsteɪn/
- (US) IPA(key): /əbˈsteɪn/, /æbˈsteɪn/
Audio (UK) (file)
- Rhymes: -eɪn
- (transitive, reflexive, obsolete) Keep or withhold oneself. [Attested from around 1350 to 1470 until the mid 16th century.]
- (intransitive) Refrain from (something or doing something); keep from doing, especially an indulgence. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- In order to improve his health, Rob decided to abstain from smoking.
- 22 May 1948, United Nations, Security Council Resolution 49
- The Security Council […] calls upon all Governments and authorities, without prejudice to the rights, claims or positions of the parties concerned, to abstain from any hostile military action in Palestine and to that end to issue a cease-fire order to their military and paramilitary forces
- 1597, Shakespeare, Richard II, II-i:
- Who abstains from meat that is not gaunt?
- (intransitive, obsolete) Fast (not eat for a period). [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- (intransitive) Deliberately refrain from casting one's vote at a meeting where one is present. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- 1913, Thomas Babington Macaulay, A Short History of English Liberalism:
- […] forcing a small portion of the population to abstain from voting
- I abstain from this vote, as I have no particular preference.
- (transitive, obsolete) Hinder; keep back; withhold. [Attested from the early 16th century until the mid 17th century.]
- 1645, John Milton, Tetrachordon: Expositions on the four chief places in Scripture:
- Whether he abstain men from marying [sic].
- (keep or withhold oneself): Followed by the word from or of.
- (refrain from something): Followed by the word from.
Conjugation of abstain
|present tense||past tense|
|2nd-person singular||abstain, abstainest†||abstained, abstainedst†|
|3rd-person singular||abstains, abstaineth†||abstained|
refrain from voting
- Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “abstain”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 9.