9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[ab-steyn] /æbˈsteɪn/
verb (used without object)
to hold oneself back voluntarily, especially from something regarded as improper or unhealthy (usually followed by from):
to abstain from eating meat.
to refrain from casting one's vote:
a referendum in which two delegates abstained.
Origin of abstain
1350-1400; Middle English abste(i)nen < Middle French abstenirLatin abstinēre, equivalent to abs- abs- + -tinēre, combining form of tenēre to hold, keep
Related forms
nonabstaining, adjective
overabstain, verb (used without object)
1. forbear; desist, cease.
1. indulge. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for abstain
  • When the class asked the student body to abstain from computers for 24 hours and met to discuss it, the camera crew was there.
  • It was the visitor's delicacy that made her abstain from interference.
  • The parent is advised to be honest and answer the child's queries, but should abstain from volunteering any detailed information.
  • Some simple books abstain from slick photography but work well in the kitchen.
  • And you might try abstaining from coffee and other stimulants on the day of the interview.
  • He said he would abstain from dinners out or trips to movie theaters.
  • If you didn't 't want to participate in the discussion, you were free to abstain.
  • They would either go in favour or abstain on all substantive votes.
  • He said he decided to stay for three months because he realized that learning to abstain was only part of the process to recovery.
  • The decision to construe those sets of numbers as the yes, no, and abstain votes of the faculty rests entirely with the candidate.
British Dictionary definitions for abstain


verb (intransitive) usually foll by from
to choose to refrain: he abstained from alcohol
to refrain from voting, esp in a committee, legislature, etc
Derived Forms
abstainer, noun
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin abstinēre, from abs-ab-1 + tenēre to hold, keep
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abstain

late 14c., "to withhold oneself," from Old French abstenir (14c.), earlier astenir (13c.) "hold (oneself) back, refrain, abstain (from), practice abstinence," from Latin abstinere "withhold, keep back, keep off," from ab(s)- "from, away from" (see ab-) + tenere "to hold" (see tenet). Specifically of liquor, attested from late 14c. Of voting, 1796. Related: Abstained; abstaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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