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[adjective ab-strakt, ab-strakt; noun ab-strakt; verb ab-strakt for 10–13, ab-strakt for 14] /adjective æbˈstrækt, ˈæb strækt; noun ˈæb strækt; verb æbˈstrækt for 10–13, ˈæb strækt for 14/
thought of apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances:
an abstract idea.
expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance, as justice, poverty, and speed.
theoretical; not applied or practical:
abstract science.
difficult to understand; abstruse:
abstract speculations.
Fine Arts.
  1. of or relating to the formal aspect of art, emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, etc., especially with reference to their relationship to one another.
  2. (often initial capital letter) pertaining to the nonrepresentational art styles of the 20th century.
a summary of a text, scientific article, document, speech, etc.; epitome.
something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.
an idea or term considered apart from some material basis or object.
an abstract work of art.
verb (used with object)
to draw or take away; remove.
to divert or draw away the attention of.
to steal.
to consider as a general quality or characteristic apart from specific objects or instances:
to abstract the notions of time, space, and matter.
to make an abstract of; summarize.
abstract away from, to omit from consideration.
in the abstract, without reference to a specific object or instance; in theory:
beauty in the abstract.
Origin of abstract
1400-50; late Middle English: withdrawn from worldly interests < Latin abstractus drawn off (past participle of abstrahere). See abs-, tract1
Related forms
abstracter, noun
abstractly, adverb
abstractness, noun
nonabstract, adjective, noun
nonabstractly, adverb
nonabstractness, noun
overabstract, verb (used with object), adjective
preabstract, adjective
superabstract, adjective
superabstractly, adverb
superabstractness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for abstract
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Look at the Rudiments; they begin by insisting on stuffing into the heads of children a crowd of the most abstract ideas.

  • Speculative or theoretic knowledge is divided into abstract and concrete.

  • The rest of the days were lost in abstract time, during which Quin had his hair cut and his face shaved, and did bead-work.

    Quin Alice Hegan Rice
  • This is not the fault of Columbus, albeit we only have an abstract of his journal.

  • It is attracted by investigation and thought regarding concrete things, rather than by abstract subjects.

    How to Read Human Nature William Walker Atkinson
British Dictionary definitions for abstract


adjective (ˈæbstrækt)
having no reference to material objects or specific examples; not concrete
not applied or practical; theoretical
hard to understand; recondite; abstruse
denoting art characterized by geometric, formalized, or otherwise nonrepresentational qualities
defined in terms of its formal properties: an abstract machine
(philosophy) (of an idea) functioning for some empiricists as the meaning of a general term: the word ``man'' does not name all men but the abstract idea of manhood
noun (ˈæbstrækt)
a condensed version of a piece of writing, speech, etc; summary
an abstract term or idea
an abstract painting, sculpture, etc
in the abstract, without reference to specific circumstances or practical experience
verb (transitive) (æbˈstrækt)
to think of (a quality or concept) generally without reference to a specific example; regard theoretically
to form (a general idea) by abstraction
(also intransitive) (ˈæbstrækt). to summarize or epitomize
to remove or extract
(euphemistic) to steal
Word Origin
C14: (in the sense: extracted): from Latin abstractus drawn off, removed from (something specific), from abs-ab-1 + trahere to draw
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 abstract

late 14c., originally in grammar (of nouns), from Latin abstractus "drawn away," past participle of abstrahere "to drag away; detach divert," from ab(s)- "away" (see ab-) + trahere "draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Meaning "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" is from mid-15c. That of "difficult to understand, abstruse" is from c.1400. Specifically in reference to modern art, it dates from 1914; abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollack is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.

Oswald Herzog, in an article on "Der Abstrakte Expressionismus" (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. "Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism," he writes. "It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..." [William A. Drake, "The Life and Deeds of Dada," 1922]


"abridgement or summary of a document," mid-15c., from abstract (adj.). The general sense of "a smaller quantity containing the virtue or power of a greater" [Johnson] is recorded from 1560s.


1540s, from Latin abstractus or else from the adjective abstract. Related: Abstracted; abstracting, abstractedly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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abstract in Medicine

abstract ab·stract (āb-strākt', āb'strākt')

  1. Considered apart from concrete existence.

  2. Not applied or practical; theoretical.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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abstract in Technology

A description of a concept that leaves out some information or details in order to simplify it in some useful way.
Abstraction is a powerful technique that is applied in many areas of computing and elsewhere. For example: abstract class, data abstraction, abstract interpretation, abstract syntax, Hardware Abstraction Layer.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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