American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- adj. Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.
- adj. Not applied or practical; theoretical. See Synonyms at theoretical.
- adj. Difficult to understand; abstruse: abstract philosophical problems.
- adj. Thought of or stated without reference to a specific instance: abstract words like truth and justice.
- adj. Impersonal, as in attitude or views.
- adj. Having an intellectual and affective artistic content that depends solely on intrinsic form rather than on narrative content or pictorial representation: abstract painting and sculpture.
- n. A statement summarizing the important points of a text.
- n. Something abstract.
- v. To take away; remove.
- v. To remove without permission; filch.
- v. To consider (a quality, for example) without reference to a particular example or object.
- v. To summarize; epitomize.
- v. To create artistic abstractions of (something else, such as a concrete object or another style): "The Bauhaus Functionalists were . . . busy unornamenting and abstracting modern architecture, painting and design” ( John Barth).
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To draw away; take away; withdraw or remove, whether to hold or to get rid of the object withdrawn: as, to abstract one's attention; to abstract a watch from a person's pocket, or money from a bank.
- To consider as a form apart from matter; attend to as a general object, to the neglect of special circumstances; derive as a general idea from the contemplation of particular instances; separate and hold in thought, as a part of a complex idea, while letting the rest go. This meaning of the Latin abstrahere, with the corresponding meaning of abstractio, first appears toward the end of the great dispute between the nominalists and realists in the twelfth century. The invention of these terms may be said to embody the upshot of the controversy. They are unquestionably translations of the Greek
ἀφαιρει%26ν, and ἀφαίρεσις, though we cannot say how these Greek terms became known in the West so early. The earliest passage is the following: “We say those thoughts (intellectus) are by abstraction (per abstractionem), which either contemplate the nature of any form in itself without regard to the subject matter, or think any nature indifferently (indifferenter), apart, that is, from the difference of its individuals. … On the other hand, we may speak of subtraction, when any one endeavors to contemplate the nature of any subject essence apart from all form. Either thought, however, the abstracting as well as the subtracting, seems to conceive the thing otherwise than it exists.” De Intellectibus, in Cousin's Fragments Philosophiques (2d ed.), p. 481. This old literature having been long forgotten, an erroneous idea of the origin of the term arose. “Abstraction means etymologically the active withdrawal of attention from one thing in order to fix it on another thing.” Sully. [This plausible but false notion gave rise to the phrase to abstract (intrans.) from. See below.]
- To derive or obtain the idea of.
- To select or separate the substance of, as a book or writing; epitomize or reduce to a summary.
- To extract: as, to abstract spirit. Synonyms To disengage, isolate, detach. See
- To form abstractions; separate ideas; distinguish between the attribute and the subject in which it exists: as, “brutes abstract not,” Locke.
- [This is all founded on a false notion of the origin of the term. See above.]
- Conceived apart from matter and from special cases: as, an abstract number, a number as conceived in arithmetic, not a number of things of any kind. Originally applied to geometrical forms (the metaphor being that of a statue hewn from a stone), and down to the twelfth century restricted exclusively to mathematical forms and quantities. (Isidorus, about a. d. 600, defines abstract number.) It is now applied to anything of a general nature which is considered apart from special circumstances: thus, abstract right is what ought to be done independently of instituted law.
[The phrase in the abstract is preferable to the adjective in this sense.]
- In grammar (since the thirteenth century), applied specially to that class of nouns which are formed from adjectives and denote character, as goodness, audacity, and more generally to all nouns that do not name concrete things. Abstract in this sense is a prominent term in the logic of Occam and of the English nominalists.
- Having the mind drawn away from present objects, as in ecstasy and trance; abstracted: as, “abstract as in a trance,”
- Produced by the mental process of abstraction: as, an abstract idea. Under this head belong two meanings of abstract which can hardly be considered as English, though they are sometimes used by writers influenced by the German language. They are— General; having relatively small logical comprehension; wide; lofty; indeterminate. This is the usual meaning of abstract in German; but its establishment in English would greatly confuse our historical terminology. Resulting from analytical thought; severed from its connections; falsified by the neglect of important considerations. This is the Hegelian meaning of the word, carrying with it a tacit condemnation of the method of analytical mechanics and of all application of mathematics.
- Demanding a high degree of mental abstraction; difficult; profound; abstruse: as, highly abstract conceptions; very abstract speculations.
- Applied to a science which deals with its object in the abstract: as, abstract logic; abstract mathematics: opposed to applied logic and mathematics.
- Separated from material elements; ethereal; ideal.
- n. That which concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; the essence; specifically, a summary or epitome containing the substance, a general view, or the principal heads of a writing, discourse, series of events, or the like.
- n. That portion of a bill of quantities, an estimate, or an account which contains the summary of the various detailed articles.
- n. In pharmacy, a dry powder prepared from a drug by digesting it with suitable solvents, and evaporating the solution so obtained to complete dryness at a low temperature (122° F.). It is twice as strong as the drug or the fluid extract, and about ten times as strong as the tincture.
- n. A catalogue; an inventory.
- n. In grammar, an abstract term or noun.
- n. conceived apart from matter or special circumstances; without reference to particular applications; in its general principles or meanings.
- n. Synonyms Abridgment, Compendium, Epitome, Abstract, etc. See abridgment.
- n. real estate A summary title of the key points detailing a tract of land, for ownership; abstract of title.
- adj. Apart from practice or reality; vague; theoretical; impersonal; not applied.
- adj. grammar As a noun, denoting an intangible as opposed to an object, place, or person.
- adj. computing Of a class in object-oriented programming, being a partial basis for subclasses rather than a complete template for objects.
- v. transitive To draw off (interest or attention).
- v. intransitive, rare To perform the process of abstraction.
- v. intransitive, fine arts To create abstractions.
- v. intransitive, computing To produce an abstraction, usually by refactoring existing code. Generally used with "out".
GNU Webster's 1913
- adj. obsolete Withdraw; separate.
- adj. Considered apart from any application to a particular object; separated from matter; existing in the mind only. Hence: ideal; abstruse; difficult.
- adj. Expressing a particular property of an object viewed apart from the other properties which constitute it; -- opposed to
- adj. Resulting from the mental faculty of abstraction; general as opposed to particular.
- adj. Abstracted; absent in mind.
- v. To withdraw; to separate; to take away.
- v. To draw off in respect to interest or attention.
- v. To separate, as ideas, by the operation of the mind; to consider by itself; to contemplate separately, as a quality or attribute.
- v. To epitomize; to abridge.
- v. To take secretly or dishonestly; to purloin.
- v. (Chem.) To separate, as the more volatile or soluble parts of a substance, by distillation or other chemical processes. In this sense
extractis now more generally used.
- v. rare To perform the process of abstraction.
- n. That which comprises or concentrates in itself the essential qualities of a larger thing or of several things. Specifically: A summary or an epitome, as of a treatise or book, or of a statement; a brief.
- n. A state of separation from other things.
- n. An abstract term.
- n. (Med.) A powdered solid extract of a vegetable substance mixed with sugar of milk in such proportion that one part of the abstract represents two parts of the original substance.
- n. a concept or idea not associated with any specific instance
- adj. dealing with a subject in the abstract without practical purpose or intention
- adj. existing only in the mind; separated from embodiment
- v. consider a concept without thinking of a specific example; consider abstractly or theoretically
- v. consider apart from a particular case or instance
- adj. not representing or imitating external reality or the objects of nature
- v. give an abstract (of)
- n. a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory
- v. make off with belongings of others
- First attested in 1542. Partly from English abstract (adjective form), and from Latin abstrat past participle of abstrahō ("to draw away"). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Latin abstractus, past participle of abstrahere, to draw away : abs-, ab-, away; see ab-1 + trahere, to draw. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The term abstract comes from the Latin word abstractus, which literally means "drawn away".”
“Taking fifteen minutes to review your title abstract and history as well as the plat or a survey of the parcel and then walk the property to verify the information.”
“The use of the word abstract is not used in a literal manner for example geometric shapes or blocks of colour.”
“Now the Indian language, although quite sufficient for Indian wants, is poor, and has not the same copiousness as ours, because they do not require the words to explain what we term abstract ideas.”
“Now, the Indian language, although quite sufficient for Indian wants, is poor, and has not the same copiousness as ours, because they do not require the words to explain what we term abstract ideas.”
“Company's consumer, commercial and other lending businesses; current and future capital management programs; non-interest income levels, including fees from the title abstract subsidiary and banking services as well as product sales; tangible capital generation; market share; expense levels; and other business operations and strategies.”
“Bernard, nothing more than the abstract is available on the net for free.”
“The journal's web site hasn't been updated to the current issue, so not even the abstract is available at the moment.”
“From these metaphysics, which are mingled with the Scripture to make School divinity, we are told there be in the world certain essences separated from bodies, which they call abstract essences, and substantial forms; for the interpreting of which jargon, there is need of somewhat more than ordinary attention in this place.”
“Compassion in the abstract is all well and good -- every sperm is sacred, every child must be born, every life must be saved (well, as long as they have a good lawyer, and that doesn't include the death penalty).”
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