Definition of abstraction in English:


Line breaks: ab|strac¦tion
Pronunciation: /əbˈstrakʃ(ə)n


[mass noun]
  • 1The quality of dealing with ideas rather than events: topics will vary in degrees of abstraction
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    • That surprising, sinking, excited feeling may be the essence of thought as felt experience, rather than as bare abstraction.
    • Here the secret of American hegemony has lain rather in formulaic abstraction, the basis for the fortune of Hollywood.
    • But it is still very uncomfortable when the discourse moves beyond rather bare abstraction.
  • 1.1 [count noun] Something which exists only as an idea: the question can no longer be treated as an academic abstraction
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    • He comes to be disgusted by all abstractions and ideas.
    • He was a man whose mind was closed to abstractions and new ideas.
    • Software is not just an abstraction that exists in isolation.
  • 2Freedom from representational qualities in art: geometric abstraction has been a mainstay in her work
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    • Many of the quilts on view could almost be, if you squint, works of geometric abstraction by modern painters.
    • By the 1970s Booth moved from geometric abstraction into drawing and painting his best known images.
    • Geometric abstraction, thirties activism, and Surrealism had their day in American art, but not at the Intimate Gallery or An American Place.
  • 2.1 [count noun] An abstract work of art: critics sought the meaning of O’Keeffe’s abstractions a series of black-and-white abstractions
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    • Malevich was represented by iconic Suprematist abstractions and by less familiar works that preceded and followed his brief zenith.
    • Aware of the abstractions of Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, Guston moved alongside them, exploring colour, space and painterly touch alone.
    • Gone were the bronze statues and late-modern abstractions of earlier years.
  • 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
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    • 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.
  • 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
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    • This project includes the provision of a new source for the abstraction of water from the River Mahon, at the tidal divide near Ballylaneen.
    • 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.
    extraction, removal, separation, detachment


late Middle English: from Latin abstractio(n-), from the verb abstrahere 'draw away' (see abstract).

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