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[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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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
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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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