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From Latin abortiōnem (miscarriage, abortion), from aborior (to miscarry). Equivalent to abort +‎ -ion. Displaced native Old English ǣwyrp (literally throwing out, rejection).


  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈbɔɹ.ʃn̩/, enPR: əʹbôrshən
  • Rhymes: -ɔː(ɹ)ʃən


abortion (countable and uncountable, plural abortions)

  1. (medicine) The expulsion from the womb of a foetus or embryo before it is fully developed, with loss of the foetus; either naturally as a spontaneous abortion (now usually called a miscarriage), or deliberately as an induced abortion. [from 16th c.]
    Mary decided to have an abortion because she was too young to raise a baby.
    • 1809, William Nicholson, The British Encyclopaedia, volume IV:
      At any time after impregnation, abortion may take place: it is one of the most common complaints of pregnancy, whence it is a matter of no small consequence that every practitioner should well understand it.
    • 1997, Carlin, George, Brain Droppings[1], New York: Hyperion Books, →ISBN, →LCCN, →OCLC, →OL, page 93:
      It is impossible for an abortion clinic to have a waiting list of more than nine months.
    • 2017 October 5, Ben Jacobs, The Guardian[2]:
      Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania will resign from Congress after claims that the anti-abortion Republican had urged a woman he was having an extramarital affair with to have an abortion.
  2. (now rare) An aborted foetus; an abortus. [from 16th c.]
    • 1791, James Boswell, Life of Johnson, Oxford, published 2008, page 657:
      ‘It seems too hairy for an abortion, and too small for a mature birth.’
    • 1929, Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own:
      The Fascist poem, one may fear, will be a horrid little abortion such as one sees in a glass jar in the museum of some county town.
  3. (figuratively) A misshapen person or thing; a monstrosity. [from 16th c.]
    • 1846, Charles Dickens, chapter 10, in Pictures from Italy[3]:
      Insomuch that I do honestly believe, there can be no place in the world, where such intolerable abortions, begotten of the sculptor’s chisel, are to be found in such profusion, as in Rome.
    • 1889, Edward Bellamy, “To Whom This May Come”, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, New York, page 459, column 2:
      His voice was the most pitiable abortion of a voice I had ever heard.
    • 2000, Jules, “please dont buy beacon cd”, in alt.fan.allman-brothers (Usenet):
      Dickey on his own manages to turn a simple bo diddley 1-2-3-4 into an absolute abortion of a song.
    • 2003, David Kerekes, Headpress 24: Powered by Love, page 133:
      an absolute abortion of a book
  4. (figuratively) Failure or abandonment of a project, promise, goal etc. [from 17th c.]
    • 1800 September 23, Jefferson, Thomas, Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush[4]:
      The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes.
    • 2013, Fakhry A. Assaad, James W. LaMoreaux, Travis Hughes, Field Methods for Geologists and Hydrogeologists, →ISBN, page 314:
      The transfer or loss of the project manager before the project is completed will result in lost continuity and delay or the abortion of the project and/or the report.
    • 2015, Gabriele Brandstetter, Poetics of Dance: Body, Image, and Space, →ISBN, page 73:
      [] the abrupt abortion of the trip after eleven days.
  5. (biology) Arrest of development of any organ, so that it remains an imperfect formation or is absorbed. [from 18th c.]
  6. The cessation of an illness or disease at a very early stage.



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