Definition of abstention in English:



  • 1An instance of declining to vote for or against a proposal or motion.

    ‘a resolution passed by 126 votes to none, with six abstentions’
    • ‘The amendment was approved with 65 votes for, 13 votes against and 22 abstentions.’
    • ‘There were two abstentions and one invalid vote.’
    • ‘A show of hands resulted in 11 people voting to bring back the bells, with one vote against and six abstentions.’
    • ‘Therefore, of 300 total seats, only 75 votes or abstentions would be required to block constitutional reform.’
    • ‘The lopsided vote for Libya, including all those cowardly European abstentions, speaks volumes about the UN's character.’
    • ‘The resolution was backed by 22 of the 35 members of the IAEA's governing board, with 12 abstentions and one vote against.’
    • ‘The rebellion, small on the scale of recent backbench protests and partly because of Labour reluctance to back a Liberal Democrat motion, masked considerable Labour abstentions.’
    • ‘Four of those six abstentions were members of the Latino Caucus, including its chairman, Marco Antonio Firebaugh.’
    • ‘A motion passed overwhelmingly with no votes against and two abstentions was proposed jointly by Labour and the Conservatives.’
    • ‘Voters in the cities, like Harare and Bulawayo, voted No by three to one, whilst in the rural heartlands that were expected to vote Yes there were widespread abstentions.’
    • ‘This time the vote was 120 to 98, with six abstentions.’
    • ‘Since the vote was held in secret, it is impossible to say from which part of the government camp the 51 ‘no’ votes and abstentions came.’
    • ‘They could not make up their minds, so they voted eight abstentions.’
    • ‘The senate vote recorded 25 in favour 16 opposed and 10 abstentions.’
    • ‘According to Stankushev the ratio between the number of votes and abstentions showed the ratio between fear and conscience.’
    • ‘Following several hours of debates, a council vote to accept the plan was passed by 29 in favour with four votes against and 20 abstentions.’
    • ‘The growing tide of abstentions and protest votes for the extreme right and the extreme left are other signs of disarray and dismay.’
    • ‘Indeed, this pattern of fierce and prolonged debate, followed by a vote with a large number of abstentions, was a remarkable feature of debates in the ISG.’
    • ‘The US will therefore be able to find a majority of positive votes with a few abstentions.’
    • ‘There were seven abstentions and just four voted in favour of the plan.’
    refusal to vote, abstaining, non-voting
    View synonyms
  • 2mass noun Restraint in one's consumption; abstinence.

    ‘alcohol consumption versus abstention’
    • ‘Fasting or abstention from sex is a cakewalk compared to it.’
    • ‘Existing treatments for alcoholism tend to concentrate either on abstention - sometimes aided by drugs - or the use of aversion therapy, such as drugs that make you ill if you drink.’
    • ‘They started by studying men and women at all levels of drinking from abstention to those in detox for full-blown alcohol problems.’
    • ‘The disquieting voices of the few people who doubted that complete abstention was achievable for most problematic consumers were drowned out in a sea of treatment optimism.’
    • ‘But again, this would only be true if Crusoe's saving - i.e. his abstention from possible present consumption - had been channeled into investment in such tools.’
    teetotalism, temperance, sobriety, abstemiousness
    teetotalism, temperance, sobriety, abstemiousness, abstinence
    refraining, desisting, holding back, forbearing, keeping, withholding, abstinence
    celibacy, chastity, singleness, continence, virginity, abstinence, self-restraint, self-denial, bachelorhood, spinsterhood
    View synonyms


Early 16th century (denoting the action of keeping back or restraining): from late Latin abstentio(n-), from the verb abstinere (see abstain).