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Abstain (to choose not to do something) is considered to be an advanced word, according to the Kaplan GRE Exam Vocabulary in a Box, which includes 500 college- and graduate-level words that frequently appear on the Graduate Record Exam.

Video footage: PHUKET- OCT2: Taoists participate in a street procession of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival on Oct 2, 2014 in Phuket, Thailand. During festival devotees abstain from eating meat to appease the God.
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Definition of the verb abstain

What does abstain mean as a doing word?

verb - inflections: abstained | abstaining | abstains

  1. refrain from voting
    • syntax:
      Syntactic formulaExample for the syntactic formula
      [Agent - being or organization] [Verb]He refrained
      [Agent - being or organization] [Verb] from [Theme, subject control with -ing]He refrained from eating
      [Agent - being or organization] [Verb] from [Theme, not sentential clause]He refrained from the lurid activity while in the lady's company

      Refrain Verbs (with the same syntax): desist, forbear, refrain.

    • lexical domain: Activities - verbs of political and social activities and events
    • more generic words: forbear / refrain = resist doing something
  2. choose not to consume
    • example: I abstain from alcohol
    • syntax: the same syntax as for the sense 1
    • lexical domain: Consumption - verbs of eating and drinking
    • synonyms of abstain: desist / refrain
    • antonym of abstain: consume
    • more specific terms:
      • fast = abstain from eating
      • fast = abstain from certain foods, as for religious or medical reasons
      • keep off / avoid = refrain from certain foods or beverages
      • teetotal = practice teetotalism and abstain from the consumption of alcoholic beverages

Alternative definition of the verb abstain


  1. [intransitive] Refrain from (something); hold one's self aloof; to forbear or keep from doing, especially an indulgence of the passions or appetites; -- with from.
  2. [intransitive] To shun voluntarily.
  3. [intransitive] Deliberately refrain from casting one's vote at a meeting where one is present.
  4. [transitive] Hinder; withhold.

Definition of the verb abstain for high school students

    to freely choose not to commit an action
    • example: Everyone demanded that Angus put on the kilt, but he did not want to do it and abstained.

The verb abstain is considered to be a word that all college-aspiring students should know and understand, so it frequently appears on the SAT, ACT and other college admissions tests.


Abstain is a musical group.

  • members:
  • albums: "Abstain", "My Virus Called Malice"


  1. "Abstain" is a musical EP of Abstain.
    • released in (15 years ago)
  2. "Abstain" a.k.a. "Abstain!" is a musical single of Five Thirty.

Printed dictionaries and other books with definitions for Abstain

Click on a title to look inside that book (if available):

Google previewAccompanied by a Believing Wife (2013)

Ministry and Celibacy in the Earliest Christian Communities by Raymond F. Collins

is the principal verb; abstain is an infinitive ( fraudare). 16 The Greek particle an intensives the exceptive ei m∑ti. The intensifying particle is absent from ∏46 and a few other ancient manuscripts. In Latin, the ...

Google previewSexuality Is Not in Creation (2014)

by Amoge Nwaeze

To abstain means that we will never do a thing or we getting involve in a thing. But moderation, is one being allowed to do a thing but in a minimized way, which means it is allowed. Abuse of sexuality is never allowed by God in all generation ...

Google previewCrabb's English Synonyms

by George Crabb

To abstain is the general term, to farbear and refrain are particular modes of abstaining. Abstaining is an act that may require no self-denial, nor oppose any inclination; forbean'ng and refraining both imply a certain degree of 0 position to the ...

Google previewEnglish Synonymes Explained, in Alphabetical Order (1837)

With Copious Illustrations and Examples Drawn from the Best Writers. To which is Now Added an Index to the Words by George Crabb

To abstain is the general term, to for-bear and refrain are particular modes of abstaining. Abs-taining is an act that may require no selfdenial, nor oppose any inclination; forbearing and refrainingboth imply a certain degree of oppos1tion to the ...

Google previewPansegrouw's Crossword Dictionary (1994)

by Louisa Pansegrouw

fascinating, interesting absorb into something else merge absorb into the system assimilate absorb liquid colour dye abstain abnegate, avoid, cease, curb, curtail, decline, deny, desist, discontinue, eschew, fast, forbear, for(e)go, quit, refrain, ...

Google previewBachiesichang Dictionary of English Errors (2013)

by King Sulleyman D. Bachiesichang

abstain (verb) to avoid getting involved in an unpleasant activity or situation for fear that it may harm you. 8 The pastor cautioned the youth to abstain to premarital sex and stick to decent lives.

Google previewEncyclopedia of Adolescence (2014)

by Roger J.R. Levesque

Our society has developed and continues to support numerous institutions that help adolescents abstain and that even can use the force of law to have adolescents abstain from activities deemed problematic. Illustrative of these efforts are the ...

Google previewEncyclopaedia perthensis, or, Universal dictionary of the arts, sciences, literature, etc. : intended to supersede the use of other books of reference (1816)

To ABSTAIN, m n. [abstineo, Lat.] To forbear, to deny ont's self any gratification ; with the particle from. — If thou judge it hard and difficult, Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain From love's due rites, nuptial embraces sweet ; And, with desires, ...

Online dictionaries and encyclopedias with entries for Abstain

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Usage statistics about abstain

The following statistics are based on the British National Corpus, so they are representative for the British English from the later part of the 20th century, both spoken and written.

Distribution of usage frequency for the most common synonyms of the verb abstain:


Comparison of usage frequency between the verb abstain and its most common antonym:


Photos about Abstain

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A good incentive to abstain from gay bashing.

Banner reads "Supporting your right to marry and your right to carry." In the USA the "right to carry" is political shorthand for the legal and moral right to carry loaded concealed firearms on ones person.

Photo credit: Dan Skorupka

If you need related images for an article or a report, you can download stock photos:
Small photo of TOP-10. Aphorism by Nikola Tesla (1856- 1943) - inventor, engineer, physicist. I myself eschew all stimulants. I also practically abstain from meat.Small photo of the word of ABSTAIN on building blocks conceptSmall photo of Stern businessman indicating his neutrality with a hand gesture as he decides to abstain from voting, upper body on whiteSmall photo of abstain word on index card More...

Video language resources about Abstain

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Quotes about Abstain

Everything's so repressive now - it's the No generation. You can't do anything, you can't eat anything, you have to abstain. (Michael Douglas)
more quotes about abstain...

Scrabble value of A1B3S1T1A1I1N1

The value of this 7-letter word is 9 points. It is included in the first and second editions of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

Anagrams of ABSTAIN

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