Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



August 8th, 2015

Episode 281 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 08, 2015 is: abstain \ub-STAYN\ verb : to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice Examples: The nurse advised Jacob to abstain from alcohol while he was on the medication. "Messick let the council know he would abstain from all votes regarding this downtown property ." Aaron Little, Santa Rosa (Florida) Press, July 7, 2015 Did you know? If you abstain, you're consciously and usually with effort choosing to "hold back" from doing something that you would like to do. One may abstain from a vice, for example, or in parliamentary procedure, one might abstain from placing a vote. So it's no surprise that abstain traces back through Middle English and Anglo-French to the Latin abstinēre, which combines the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with tenēre, a Latin verb meaning "to hold." Tenēre has many offspring in Englishother descendants include contain, detain, maintain, obtain, pertain, retain, and sustain, as well as some words that don't end in -tain, such as tenacious. Abstain, like many of its cousins, has been used by English speakers since at least the 14th century.