1. Also called voluntary abortion. the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.
  2. any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.
  3. Also called spontaneous abortion. miscarriage(def 1).
  4. an immature and nonviable fetus.
  5. abortus(def 2).
  6. any malformed or monstrous person, thing, etc.
  7. Biology. the arrested development of an embryo or an organ at a more or less early stage.
  8. the stopping of an illness, infection, etc., at a very early stage.
  9. Informal.
    1. shambles; mess.
    2. anything that fails to develop, progress, or mature, as a design or project.


  1. an operation or other procedure to terminate pregnancy before the fetus is viable
  2. the premature termination of pregnancy by spontaneous or induced expulsion of a nonviable fetus from the uterus
  3. the products of abortion; an aborted fetus
  4. the arrest of development of an organ
  5. a failure to develop to completion or maturitythe project proved an abortion
  6. a person or thing that is deformed

1540s, from Latin abortionem (nominative abortio) “miscarriage, abortion,” noun of action from past participle stem of aboriri (see abortive).

Earlier noun in English was simple abort (early 15c.). Originally of both deliberate and unintended miscarriages; in 19c. some effort was made to distinguish abortion “expulsion of the fetus between 6 weeks and 6 months” from miscarriage (the same within 6 weeks of conception) and premature labor (delivery after 6 months but before due time). This broke down as abortion came to be used principally for intentional miscarriages. Foeticide (v.) appears 1823 as a forensic medical term for deliberate premature fatal expulsion of the fetus; also cf. prolicide. Abortion was a taboo word for much of early 20c., disguised in print as criminal operation (U.S.) or illegal operation (U.K.), and replaced by miscarriage in film versions of novels.


  1. Induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the fetus or embryo; therapeutic abortion.
  2. Any of various procedures that result in such a termination of pregnancy.
  3. Spontaneous abortion.
  4. Cessation of a normal or abnormal process before completion.

  1. Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.
  2. Any of various procedures that result in such termination.
  3. Spontaneous abortion; miscarriage.
  4. Cessation of a normal or abnormal process before completion.

The deliberate termination of a pregnancy, usually before the embryo or fetus is capable of independent life. In medical contexts, this procedure is called an induced abortion and is distinguished from a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or stillbirth.

The ending of pregnancy and expulsion of the embryo or fetus, generally before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving on its own. Abortion may be brought on intentionally by artificial means (induced abortion) or may occur naturally (spontaneous abortion, which is commonly referred to as a miscarriage). (Compare stillbirth; see also family planning and population control.)

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