First attested around 1380. From Middle English abstene, absteine, absteynen, absteinen, abstenen, from Old French astenir, abstenir, from Latin abstineō (“to hold oneself back”) from abs- (“from”) + (tineō (“hold”), from teneō (“I hold”)). See also tenable.
- (transitive, reflexive, obsolete) Keep or withhold oneself. [Attested from around 1350 to 1470 until the mid 16th century.]
- (intransitive) Refrain from (something); hold one's self aloof; to forbear or keep from doing, especially an indulgence of the passions or appetites. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- Who abstains from meat that is not gaunt? - Shakespeare, Richard II, II-i
- (intransitive, obsolete) Fast. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- (intransitive) Deliberately refrain from casting one's vote at a meeting where one is present. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
- Not a few abstained from voting. - Thomas Babington Macaulay
- (transitive, obsolete) Hinder; keep back; withhold. [Attested from the early 16th century until the mid 17th century.]
- Whether he abstain men from marying [sic]. - John Milton
- (keep or withhold oneself): Followed by the word from or of.
- (refrain from something): Followed by the word from.
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- Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 , ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), page 9