Definition of abstraction in English:



mass noun
  • 1The quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.

    ‘topics will vary in degrees of abstraction’
    • ‘For a start, the level of abstraction in the argument masks some assumptions that I don't think hold - here's why.’
    • ‘Certainly the idea of number became more and more abstract and this abstraction then makes possible the consideration of zero and negative numbers which do not arise as properties of collections of objects.’
    • ‘But it is still very uncomfortable when the discourse moves beyond rather bare abstraction.’
    • ‘That would require either a lot of power, or a strong connection to the high level archetypical abstraction of the idea on a broad cultural level.’
    • ‘Rather than address these questions from the realm of critical abstraction, however, Brown, like Bishop, addresses them from one of particulars.’
    • ‘At this point, neorealism returns full circle to neoclassical abstraction and its generalizing quality.’
    • ‘To do this entails a degree of abstraction in the course of which patternings emerge, patternings of repetition and difference.’
    • ‘In all these cases the process has been one of simplification; of generalisation; and, to some degree, of abstraction.’
    • ‘Similarities across actually encountered expressions allow the extraction of schemas of varying degrees of abstraction.’
    • ‘That surprising, sinking, excited feeling may be the essence of thought as felt experience, rather than as bare abstraction.’
    • ‘That exercise provides no support at all for the idea that Heather is incapable of handling abstraction.’
    • ‘At that level of abstraction, the idea, though expressed in the design, would not have represented sufficient of the author's skill and labour as to attract copyright protection.’
    • ‘Indeed, one might argue that the languages of music and of dance share a degree of abstraction somewhat compromised by the incursion of word and plot.’
    • ‘Here the secret of American hegemony has lain rather in formulaic abstraction, the basis for the fortune of Hollywood.’
    • ‘It is the perspective of abstract ideality that, just because of its abstraction, is morally justified.’
    • ‘He can flit from populist argument to high brow abstraction and then back into quango-speak and then consultancy jargon with amazing felicity.’
    • ‘That said, my ambition was and still is to bring nuclear weapons out of the realm of abstraction and present them as a concrete subject rather than a theoretical policy issue.’
    • ‘This may turn into a hypothetical ‘poetics’ of the religious visual image but at least it would be rooted in reality rather than in a realm of abstraction.’
    • ‘The question is one which is much affected by the degree of abstraction with which it is posed.’
    • ‘‘Through abstraction I aspire towards the infinite rather than the specific,’ she observes.’
    1. 1.1count noun Something which exists only as an idea.
      ‘the question can no longer be treated as an academic abstraction’
      • ‘It's because I see gay people as people, not as abstractions or as ‘them’.’
      • ‘It is no easier in central Nairobi than in Britain to resolve the enormous mental disconnection between the abstractions of politics and the specifics of poverty.’
      • ‘He feels the need to retreat into impersonal abstractions, into structures or alleged structures over which the victim has no control.’
      • ‘Hope is not just a thing, a fantasy, a concept or an abstraction.’
      • ‘At first the idea was vague and formless, a brilliant abstraction about the surface area of a sphere, which is three times larger than the surface area of a flat chip.’
      • ‘As long as the military remains an all-volunteer force, they say, war and death could remain distant abstractions for most Americans.’
      • ‘He comes to be disgusted by all abstractions and ideas.’
      • ‘At one time, God was more than a hypothetical abstraction, and faith in his providence and design buttressed every major discipline of study.’
      • ‘Software is not just an abstraction that exists in isolation.’
      • ‘Do you think she viewed the men in her life as almost Platonic abstractions, as if she didn't really see the person there a lot of times?’
      • ‘Money is a numeric abstraction that facilitates the trade of ideas and goods.’
      • ‘America cannot intervene, because the nation exists only as an abstraction.’
      • ‘He was a man whose mind was closed to abstractions and new ideas.’
      • ‘The modern way of waging war renders the abstractions of just-war theory obsolete.’
      • ‘He had instructed her in the great abstractions of German philosophy, as expanded and amended by himself.’
      • ‘This historical perspective is by no means simply a theoretical abstraction.’
      • ‘A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society.’
      • ‘This study shows that throughout his life, Guru Nanak did not indulge in metaphysical abstractions or recondite analysis of various religious thoughts.’
      • ‘Not for Duncan the abstractions and obscurities of academic Marxism.’
      • ‘When I'm writing I often start out with abstractions and academic jargon, and purge it.’
      concept, idea, notion, thought, generality, generalization, theory, theorem, formula, hypothesis, speculation, conjecture, supposition, presumption
      View synonyms
  • 2Freedom from representational qualities in art.

    ‘geometric abstraction has been a mainstay in her work’
    • ‘Such painters as Yamaguchi, Saito and Onosato embraced the ideas of post-war abstraction.’
    • ‘Recent memorials also reflect art's shift from representation to abstraction to a kind of alchemic transformation of image and material into a work of meaning.’
    • ‘By the 1970s Booth moved from geometric abstraction into drawing and painting his best known images.’
    • ‘In the early years of the 20th century the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was one of the first to take the step from representation to pure abstraction.’
    • ‘He turned his back on the London art-world and renounced the idea of abstraction, believing that a figurative style would be the only way to convey clearly what he had seen.’
    • ‘Murray is adept at achieving an osmotic relationship of sorts between geometric and painterly abstraction.’
    • ‘The postwar years reignited discussions about the relevance of abstraction versus representation, an issue that had preoccupied many artists before the war.’
    • ‘Although that series was attractive, the paintings seemed to be testament to the artist's uncertainty of how to resolve the idea of combing abstraction with illusionistic space.’
    • ‘Geometric abstraction, thirties activism, and Surrealism had their day in American art, but not at the Intimate Gallery or An American Place.’
    • ‘While Odita's works have roots in patterned geometric abstraction, their choppy contours suggest both turbulence and organic growth.’
    • ‘Many of the quilts on view could almost be, if you squint, works of geometric abstraction by modern painters.’
    • ‘Indeed, the animation style moves from abstraction to representation to abstraction again, as if to mirror the processes by which our world was formed.’
    • ‘One beneficial effect of this curatorial decision was to emphasize that Palermo never gave up representation in favor of abstraction.’
    • ‘It is a work of perfect weighting that shows that Hodgkin can still patrol the slippery frontiers between abstraction and representation.’
    • ‘From the very beginning, he was more interested in realistic art than in abstraction, although his special interest in painting urban landscapes developed later.’
    • ‘That show laid out the paradigmatic, innovative modernist journey from representation to abstraction.’
    • ‘The time has come to think beyond the divides of Pop and Minimalism, of Dada and abstraction, and of avant-garde and modernism.’
    • ‘For Matisse, the ultimate task was to separate the boundaries between art and life and to push beyond - try with pure abstraction to attain some idea of the eternal, the sublime.’
    • ‘These contemporary landscape artists occupy a shifting terrain, bridging abstraction and representation.’
    • ‘He says this is the reason why he chose abstraction and declares that he admires the works of Malevich, Kandisky and Klee.’
    1. 2.1count noun An abstract work of art.
      ‘critics sought the meaning of O'Keeffe's abstractions’
      ‘a series of black-and-white abstractions’
      • ‘Like the Russian icons to which they are often compared, the Malevich abstractions gain spiritual power because they are also so physical.’
      • ‘Instead she makes expansive, wall-filling abstractions in her unique vocabulary of dynamic brushstrokes.’
      • ‘In some cases this involves paintings of studio setups that resemble formalist abstractions.’
      • ‘Gimblett's ostensibly modernist abstractions are constructed, to an extent, like postmodernist pastiches.’
      • ‘The great landscape abstractions from the late '50s and early '60s were the showstoppers in the last of the three large rooms.’
      • ‘Her delicate abstractions combine digitally generated images with painting or aquatint.’
      • ‘Several atmospheric abstractions in jewellike reds and blues hint at figuration.’
      • ‘Gone were the bronze statues and late-modern abstractions of earlier years.’
      • ‘A section of chipboard becomes a painterly abstraction, with a faux bark edge as a frame.’
      • ‘In another image, he paints himself as a Mondrian abstraction, the hints of his profile enough to jar the harmonious verticals and horizontals out of alignment.’
      • ‘The horizontal bands of sky and sea take on the rich tonal consistencies of a Rothko abstraction.’
      • ‘They are doing abstractions and photography and landscapes.’
      • ‘Quiet Fire in Blue Sky, a moderately sized oil on canvas, is an abstraction with subtle references to the visible world.’
      • ‘Viewed close up, they become satisfying linear abstractions in their own right, in shades of black, white and gray.’
      • ‘At first, it appeared to be an atmospheric abstraction made of green and silvery blue brushstrokes.’
      • ‘Her recent acrylic abstractions are boldly graphic with radiant colors in dynamic geometric compositions.’
      • ‘In these large, cartoonlike abstractions, there is an entire primer on the gambles and rewards of painting.’
      • ‘This relentless rectilinearity is not presented as an underlying metaphysical reality, as in a Mondrian abstraction.’
      • ‘Aware of the abstractions of Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, Guston moved alongside them, exploring colour, space and painterly touch alone.’
      • ‘Malevich was represented by iconic Suprematist abstractions and by less familiar works that preceded and followed his brief zenith.’
  • 3A state of preoccupation.

    ‘she sensed his momentary abstraction’
    • ‘She seems quiet and reserved, carefully fingering the showy flowers with a wistful air of abstraction, lost in her own thoughts.’
    • ‘The solicitor listened with an air of glassy-eyed abstraction.’
    • ‘The Prince Bishop of Redmond toddled to his seat before the Joint Economic Committee with an air of abstraction and settled himself gently, only to discover that his two Evangelists had no place at the table.’
    absent-mindedness, distraction, preoccupation, daydreaming, dreaminess, inattentiveness, inattention, wool-gathering, absence, heedlessness, obliviousness
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  • 4The process of considering something independently of its associations or attributes.

    ‘the question cannot be considered in abstraction from the historical context in which it was raised’
    • ‘‘Blackness’ once again results from the abstraction of a process or movement into an Idea, and once again becomes an ideology.’
    • ‘In abstraction from all such contexts, epistemic questions simply get no purchase.’
    • ‘It was by no means the last type of association to detach itself from the state by such a process of abstraction.’
    • ‘When, for instance, we claim that water can freeze, we consider water simply as such, in abstraction from the conditions in which any given amount of water finds itself.’
    • ‘I think what plausibility the contrary argument might seem to possess results from treating the act of lighting the cigarette in abstraction from the circumstances as a separate act.’
    • ‘As a result, the world of nature is studied in abstraction from the reality of God.’
    • ‘Some interpreters have Aristotle distinguish the sciences on the basis of their degree of abstraction from matter.’
    • ‘Then, by a process of abstraction, we are supposed to arrive at the basic ‘non-objective’ ‘layer’ of this experience.’
    • ‘Duty is no longer determined in abstraction from the consequences or vice-versa.’
  • 5The process of removing something, especially water from a river or other source.

    ‘the abstraction of water from springs and wells’
    count noun ‘abstractions from the Lowther in Cumbria’
    • ‘Water abstraction, agricultural runoff, climate change, and pollution from sewage treatment plants have all been blamed.’
    • ‘In this case, this involved costing restrictions on water abstraction and hydroelectric power station operation in order to maintain minimum in-stream flows.’
    • ‘That was a case which involved the Water Resources Act 1963, which prohibited abstraction of water from a river without a licence from the Water Authority.’
    • ‘Water supply in drainage basins is provided either by direct abstraction from rivers or by impoundment, which requires the construction of reservoirs.’
    • ‘On the Thames these days, with increased water abstraction, the river tends to go quickly from a flood to a no-flow situation.’
    • ‘Drainage and water abstraction already damage wetlands - peat deposits with all that they can tell us about past environments.’
    • ‘Bad farming practices, soil erosion, water abstraction and the building of dam walls which prevent its upstream spawning migration are just some of the threats it faces.’
    • ‘The new survey data will help United Utilities to monitor water abstraction more accurately than ever before.’
    • ‘Strengths of our review were that each chart was reviewed independently at least twice for data abstraction, which limits the chance that data present were missed.’
    • ‘Flow rates have been reduced due to greater water abstraction.’
    • ‘River keeper John Hounslow said abstraction of millions of litres of water a day from the river at Axford by Thames Water combined with record dry spells had already reduced the river to worrying levels.’
    • ‘I have watched the river Wharfe and I am concerned about the number of houses going up in the area and the increased abstraction of water.’
    • ‘This project includes the provision of a new source for the abstraction of water from the River Mahon, at the tidal divide near Ballylaneen.’
    • ‘At last week's meeting, the councillors raised their own issues or concerns about the water abstraction, which is proposed for the northern, upstream side of Athy.’
    • ‘The aim is to increase the awareness of the existing legislative and regulatory framework in relation to water abstraction, production limitations and effluent discharges.’
    • ‘No doubt reduced flows, due to water abstraction, increased clarity and apparent reduction in numbers of smaller species have all played a part in this increase in bream sizes.’
    • ‘In its submission, the IWAI said the EIS statement showed the abstraction would impact on water levels and considerably affect navigation in average summers.’
    • ‘Mr Lidington said many water users were already struggling to pay their bills and warned that the Bill's proposals on abstraction could push them even higher.’
    extraction, removal, separation, detachment
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Late Middle English: from Latin abstractio(n-), from the verb abstrahere ‘draw away’ (see abstract).