Also called voluntary abortion. the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.
any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.
Also called spontaneous abortion. (def 1).
an immature and nonviable fetus.
(def 2).
any malformed or monstrous person, thing, etc.
Biology. the arrested development of an embryo or an organ at a more or less early stage.
the stopping of an illness, infection, etc., at a very early stage.

shambles; mess.
anything that fails to develop, progress, or mature, as a design or project.

Contemporary Examples

Vatican officials “think federal funding is going to abortion” under the act, she says.
Catholic Nuns Gun for Paul Ryan Abigail Pesta August 15, 2012

As one “counselor” explained to me, “Once a women sees her baby, she will never have an abortion.”
The Loud Truth About Abortion Protesters Dean Obeidallah January 21, 2014

Why are conservatives doing everything they can to oppose these policies—and to drive up the abortion rate in America?
Thank The Pill For Abortion Rate Drop Sally Kohn February 2, 2014

Nor is abortion quite the hot-button issue in American politics it used to be.
Abortion Doesn’t Matter Adam Winkler May 10, 2010

The abortion battleground is becoming a fight over reams of red tape.
The Triumph of Bureaucracy Over Abortion Rights Michelle Goldberg September 8, 2013

Historical Examples

When an abortion (or miscarriage) takes place by itself, without any outside aid, we call it spontaneous abortion.
Woman William J. Robinson

And he had arrived at what he called the hypothesis of the abortion of cells.
Doctor Pascal Emile Zola

My mother, in the eighth month, was accidentally frightened, which caused an abortion.
The Autobiography of Madame Guyon Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon

Some trees are without fruit through the abortion of the pistils.
Trees of the Northern United States Austin C. Apgar

It was put away with another on the same subject, and inscribed “Romanes on abortion, with my answer (very important).”
More Letters of Charles Darwin Charles Darwin

an operation or other procedure to terminate pregnancy before the fetus is viable
the premature termination of pregnancy by spontaneous or induced expulsion of a nonviable fetus from the uterus
the products of abortion; an aborted fetus
the arrest of development of an organ
a failure to develop to completion or maturity: the project proved an abortion
a person or thing that is deformed

1540s, from Latin abortionem (nominative abortio) “miscarriage, abortion,” noun of action from past participle stem of aboriri (see abortive).

Earlier noun in English was simple abort (early 15c.). Originally of both deliberate and unintended miscarriages; in 19c. some effort was made to distinguish abortion “expulsion of the fetus between 6 weeks and 6 months” from miscarriage (the same within 6 weeks of conception) and premature labor (delivery after 6 months but before due time). This broke down as abortion came to be used principally for intentional miscarriages. Foeticide (v.) appears 1823 as a forensic medical term for deliberate premature fatal expulsion of the fetus; also cf. prolicide. Abortion was a taboo word for much of early 20c., disguised in print as criminal operation (U.S.) or illegal operation (U.K.), and replaced by miscarriage in film versions of novels.

abortion a·bor·tion (ə-bôr’shən)

The expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it is viable.

A miscarriage.

An aborted organism.

Cessation of normal growth, especially of an organ or other body part, before full development or maturation.

The arrest of an action or process before its completion.


Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.

Any of various procedures that result in such termination.

Spontaneous abortion; miscarriage.

Cessation of a normal or abnormal process before completion.

The deliberate termination of a pregnancy, usually before the embryo or fetus is capable of independent life. In medical contexts, this procedure is called an induced abortion and is distinguished from a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or stillbirth.

Note: Abortion laws are extremely controversial. Those who describe themselves as “pro-choice” believe that the decision to have an abortion should be left to the mother. In contrast, the “pro-life” faction, arguing that abortion is killing, holds that the state should prohibit abortion in most cases. Feminists (see feminism) and liberals generally support the pro-choice side; Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists generally back the pro-life side. (See Roe versus Wade.)

The ending of pregnancy and expulsion of the embryo or fetus, generally before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving on its own. Abortion may be brought on intentionally by artificial means (induced abortion) or may occur naturally (spontaneous abortion, which is commonly referred to as a miscarriage). (Compare stillbirth; see also family planning and population control.)


Something of very poor quality; a messy failure; Disaster: That show is a real abortion

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