thought of apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances:
an abstract idea.
expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance, as justice, poverty, and speed.
theoretical; not applied or practical:
abstract science.
difficult to understand; abstruse:
abstract speculations.
Fine Arts.

of or relating to the formal aspect of art, emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, etc., especially with reference to their relationship to one another.
(often initial capital letter) pertaining to the nonrepresentational art styles of the 20th century.

a summary of a text, scientific article, document, speech, etc.; epitome.
something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.
an idea or term considered apart from some material basis or object.
an abstract work of art.
to draw or take away; remove.
to divert or draw away the attention of.
to steal.
to consider as a general quality or characteristic apart from specific objects or instances:
to abstract the notions of time, space, and matter.
to make an abstract of; summarize.
abstract away from, to omit from consideration.
in the abstract, without reference to a specific object or instance; in theory:
beauty in the abstract.
Historical Examples

But there are, alas, some who come for a less useful purpose, that of abstracting the grain.
Glimpses of Indian Birds Douglas Dewar

Now to deplete is to check growth by abstracting the very source of nutriment.
The Horse’s Mouth Edward Mayhew

He wasn’t asleep this time, having just succeeded in abstracting a veal patty.
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens

Acquisition by agreement of right of abstracting water from the river.
Boating W. B. Woodgate

The entire nature of reason consists in generalizing sense perceptions, in abstracting the common elements out of concrete things.
The Positive Outcome of Philosophy Joseph Dietzgen

Well, take the risk of abstracting one day’s journals, and have them ready for me.
The Triumphs of Eugne Valmont Robert Barr

It can only be neutralised at the cost of abstracting lime from the system.
The Healthy Life, Vol. V, Nos. 24-28 Various

“You must have an extraordinary power of abstracting your mind,” Bernard said to her, observing it.
Confidence Henry James

But abstracting these glaring errors, the conception and execution of the work are as perfect as possible.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 58, No. 359, September 1845 Various

Jack motioned to Frank to search him, and the latter ran his hands over the others form, abstracting a revolver and a long knife.
The Radio Boys on Secret Service Duty Gerald Breckenridge

adjective (ˈæbstrækt)
having no reference to material objects or specific examples; not concrete
not applied or practical; theoretical
hard to understand; recondite; abstruse
denoting art characterized by geometric, formalized, or otherwise nonrepresentational qualities
defined in terms of its formal properties: an abstract machine
(philosophy) (of an idea) functioning for some empiricists as the meaning of a general term: the word “man” does not name all men but the abstract idea of manhood
noun (ˈæbstrækt)
a condensed version of a piece of writing, speech, etc; summary
an abstract term or idea
an abstract painting, sculpture, etc
in the abstract, without reference to specific circumstances or practical experience
verb (transitive) (æbˈstrækt)
to think of (a quality or concept) generally without reference to a specific example; regard theoretically
to form (a general idea) by abstraction
(also intransitive) (ˈæbstrækt). to summarize or epitomize
to remove or extract
(euphemistic) to steal

late 14c., originally in grammar (of nouns), from Latin abstractus “drawn away,” past participle of abstrahere “to drag away; detach divert,” from ab(s)- “away” (see ab-) + trahere “draw” (see tract (n.1)).

Meaning “withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters” is from mid-15c. That of “difficult to understand, abstruse” is from c.1400. Specifically in reference to modern art, it dates from 1914; abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollack is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.

Oswald Herzog, in an article on “Der Abstrakte Expressionismus” (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. “Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism,” he writes. “It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects …. The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. …” [William A. Drake, “The Life and Deeds of Dada,” 1922]


“abridgement or summary of a document,” mid-15c., from abstract (adj.). The general sense of “a smaller quantity containing the virtue or power of a greater” [Johnson] is recorded from 1560s.

1540s, from Latin abstractus or else from the adjective abstract. Related: Abstracted; abstracting, abstractedly.

abstract ab·stract (āb-strākt’, āb’strākt’)

Considered apart from concrete existence.

Not applied or practical; theoretical.


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