verb (used without object)

  1. to hold oneself back voluntarily, especially from something regarded as improper or unhealthy (usually followed by from): to abstain from eating meat.
  2. to refrain from casting one’s vote: a referendum in which two delegates abstained.

verb (intr usually foll by from)

  1. to choose to refrainhe abstained from alcohol
  2. to refrain from voting, esp in a committee, legislature, etc

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.

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