• (RP) IPA: /əbˈstɹæk.ʃn̩/
  • (America) IPA: /æbˈstɹæk.ʃn̩/, /əbˈstɹæk.ʃn̩/


  1. The act of abstracting, separating, withdrawing, or taking away; withdrawal; the state of being taken away. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    • 1848, J. S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy:
      The cancelling of the debt would be no destruction of wealth, but a transfer of it: a wrongful abstraction of wealth from certain members of the community, for the profit of the government, or of the tax-payers.
    1. (euphemistic) The taking surreptitiously for one's own use part of the property of another; purloining. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    2. (engineering) Removal of water from a river, lake, or aquifer.
  2. A separation from worldly objects; a recluse life; the withdrawal from one's senses. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    a hermit's abstraction
  3. The act of focusing on one characteristic of an object rather than the object as a whole group of characteristics; the act of separating said qualities from the object or ideas. [First attested in the late 16th century.]
    • circa 1837 W. Hamilton, in Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860), Lecture XXXV, page 474 ↗:
      Abstraction is no positive act: it is simply the negative of attention.
    Abstraction is necessary for the classification of things into genera and species.
  4. The act of comparing commonality between distinct objects and organizing using those similarities; the act of generalizing characteristics; the product of said generalization. [First attested in the late 16th century.]
  5. An idea or notion of an abstract or theoretical nature. [First attested in the late 16th century.]
    to fight for mere abstractions.
  6. Absence or absorption of mind; inattention to present objects; preoccupation. [First attested in the late 18th century.]
  7. (art) An abstract creation, or piece of art; qualities of artwork that are free from representational aspects. [First attested in the early 20th century.]
  8. (chemistry) A separation of volatile parts by the act of distillation.
  9. An idea of an unrealistic or visionary nature.
  10. The result of mentally abstracting an idea; the results of said process.
  11. (geology) The merging of two river valleys by the larger of the two deepening and widening so much so, as to assimilate the smaller.
  12. (computing) Any generalization technique that ignores or hides details to capture some kind of commonality between different instances for the purpose of controlling the intellectual complexity of engineered systems, particularly software systems.
  13. (computing) Any intellectual construct produced through the technique of abstraction.
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