late 14c., from L. abstractus "drawn away," pp. of abstrahere, from ab(s)- "away" + trahere "draw" (see tract (1)). Meaning "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" is from 1550s; specifically in ref. to the fine arts, it dates from 1915; abstract expressionism from 1952. The general noun sense of "a smaller quantity containing the virtue or power of a greater" [Johnson] is recorded from 1560s; meaning "summary of a document" is from 1520s. The verb is first recorded 1540s.