1: to choose not to do or have something: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice
2: to choose not to vote
Did You Know?
If you abstain, you’re consciously, and usually with effort, choosing to hold back from doing something that you would like to do. One may abstain from a vice, for example, or in parliamentary procedure, one might abstain from placing a vote. So it’s no surprise that abstain traces back through Middle English and Anglo-French to the Latin abstinēre, which combines the prefix ab- (“from, away, off”) with tenēre, a Latin verb meaning “to hold.” Tenēre has many offspring in English—other descendants include contain, detain, maintain, obtain, pertain, retain, and sustain, as well as some words that don’t end in -tain, such as tenacious. Abstain, like many of its cousins, has been used by English speakers since at least the 14th century.
“For more than a hundred and fifty days a year, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians abstain from animal products, in accordance with religious fasting.” — Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker, 17 July 2020
“The school board Monday voted 5-1, with one abstaining, to approve guidelines for moving classes online that are less restrictive than those established by the state.” — Sarah Kay LeBlanc, The Des Moines (Iowa) Register, 11 Aug. 2020