from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Considered apart from concrete existence.
  • adjective Not applied or practical; theoretical.
  • adjective Difficult to understand; abstruse.
  • adjective Denoting something that is immaterial, conceptual, or nonspecific, as an idea or quality.
  • adjective Impersonal, as in attitude or views.
  • adjective Having an intellectual and affective artistic content that depends solely on intrinsic form rather than on narrative content or pictorial representation.
  • noun A statement summarizing the important points of a text.
  • noun Something abstract.
  • noun An abstract of title.
  • transitive verb To take away; remove.
  • transitive verb To remove without permission; steal.
  • transitive verb To consider (an idea, for example) as separate from particular examples or objects.
  • transitive verb To write a summary of; summarize.
  • transitive verb To create artistic abstractions of (something else, such as a concrete object or another style).
  • idiom (in the abstract) In a way that is conceptual or theoretical, as opposed to actual or empirical.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun That portion of a bill of quantities, an estimate, or an account which contains the summary of the various detailed articles.
  • noun 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.).
  • noun A catalogue; an inventory.
  • noun In grammar, an abstract term or noun.
  • noun conceived apart from matter or special circumstances; without reference to particular applications; in its general principles or meanings.
  • noun Synonyms Abridgment, Compendium, Epitome, Abstract, etc. See abridgment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.]

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To withdraw; to separate; to take away.
  • transitive verb To draw off in respect to interest or attention.
  • transitive verb To separate, as ideas, by the operation of the mind; to consider by itself; to contemplate separately, as a quality or attribute.
  • transitive verb To epitomize; to abridge.
  • transitive verb To take secretly or dishonestly; to purloin.
  • transitive verb (Chem.) To separate, as the more volatile or soluble parts of a substance, by distillation or other chemical processes. In this sense extract is now more generally used.
  • transitive verb rare To perform the process of abstraction.
  • adjective obsolete Withdraw; separate.
  • adjective Considered apart from any application to a particular object; separated from matter; existing in the mind only. Hence: ideal; abstruse; difficult.
  • adjective Expressing a particular property of an object viewed apart from the other properties which constitute it; -- opposed to concrete.
  • adjective Resulting from the mental faculty of abstraction; general as opposed to particular.
  • adjective Abstracted; absent in mind.


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

[Middle English, from Latin abstractus, past participle of abstrahere, to draw away : abs-, ab-, away; see ab– + trahere, to draw.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First attested in 1542. Partly from English abstract (adjective form), and from Latin abstrat past participle of abstrahō ("to draw away").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Latin abstractus, perfect passive participle of abstrahō ("draw away"), formed from abs- ("away") + trahō ("to pull, draw").


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  • The term abstract comes from the Latin word abstractus, which literally means "drawn away".

    Recently Uploaded Slideshows 2009

  • 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.

    Yahoo! News: Business - Opinion 2011

  • The use of the word abstract is not used in a literal manner for example geometric shapes or blocks of colour.

    The Guardian World News Jonathan Jones 2011

  • 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.

    The Settlers in Canada Frederick Marryat 1820

  • 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.

    The Settlers in Canada Frederick Marryat 1820

  • 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.

    News 2010

  • Bernard, nothing more than the abstract is available on the net for free.

    Social Security Privatization, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty 2009

  • The journal's web site hasn't been updated to the current issue, so not even the abstract is available at the moment.

    You Didn't Think You Could Win, Did You? Peggy 2008

  • 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.

    Leviathan 2007

  • 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).

    March 2005 2005


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  • 'There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can then remove all traces of reality.' -Pable Picasso

    February 18, 2008