Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To refrain from something by one's own choice: abstain from traditional political rhetoric. See Synonyms at refrain1.
  • intransitive v. To refrain from voting: Forty senators voted in favor of the bill, 45 voted against it, and 15 abstained.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To hold one's self aloof; to forbear or refrain voluntarily, and especially from an indulgence of the passions or appetites; -- with from.
  • transitive v. To hinder; to withhold.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To forbear or refrain voluntarily, especially from what gratifies the passions or appetites: used with from: as, to abstain from the use of ardent spirits; to abstain from luxuries.
  • To hinder; obstruct; debar; cause to keep away from: as, “abstain men from marrying,” Milton.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. choose not to consume
  • v. refrain from voting

Etymologies

Middle English absteinen, to avoid, from Old French abstenir, from Latin abstinēre, to hold back : abs-, ab-, away; see ab-1 + tenēre, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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