from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th 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.
  • transitive v. To take away; remove.
  • transitive v. To remove without permission; filch.
  • transitive v. To consider (a quality, for example) without reference to a particular example or object.
  • transitive v. To summarize; epitomize.
  • transitive 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).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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. As a noun, denoting an intangible as opposed to an object, place, or person.
  • adj. Of a class in object-oriented programming, being a partial basis for subclasses rather than a complete template for objects.
  • v. To draw off (interest or attention).
  • v. To perform the process of abstraction.
  • v. To create abstractions.
  • v. To produce an abstraction, usually by refactoring existing code. Generally used with "out".

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. 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.
  • adj. Expressing a particular property of an object viewed apart from the other properties which constitute it; -- opposed to concrete.
  • adj. Resulting from the mental faculty of abstraction; general as opposed to particular.
  • adj. Abstracted; absent in mind.
  • 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. 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.
  • transitive v. To withdraw; to separate; to take away.
  • transitive v. To draw off in respect to interest or attention.
  • transitive v. To separate, as ideas, by the operation of the mind; to consider by itself; to contemplate separately, as a quality or attribute.
  • transitive v. To epitomize; to abridge.
  • transitive v. To take secretly or dishonestly; to purloin.
  • transitive v. 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 v. To perform the process of abstraction.

from The 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.
  • 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.]
  • 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.
  • 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.).
  • 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.

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

  • 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


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-1 + trahere, to draw.

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").

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").


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

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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