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From Middle English absteyner, equivalent to abstain +‎ -er.


  • (US) IPA(key): /æbˈsteɪ.nɚ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪnə(ɹ)


abstainer (plural abstainers)

  1. Agent noun of abstain; one who abstains; especially, one who abstains from something, such as the use of alcohol or drugs, or one who abstains for religious reasons; one who practices self-denial. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.][1]
    • 1920, Sigmund Freud, Dream Psychology: Psychoanalysis for Beginners, translated by M. D. Eder, New York: The James A. McCann Company, Chapter V, [1]
      To one of my very nervous patients, who was an abstainer, whose fancy was fixed on his mother, and who repeatedly dreamed of climbing stairs accompanied by his mother, I once remarked that moderate masturbation would be less harmful to him than enforced abstinence.
    • 1949, George Orwell, chapter 4, in Nineteen Eighty-Four[2]:
      He was a total abstainer and a nonsmoker, had no recreations except a daily hour in the gymnasium, and had taken a vow of celibacy, believing marriage and the care of a family to be incompatible with a twenty-four-hour-a-day devotion to duty.
    • 1990, William Trevor, "Family Sins" in The Collected Stories, New York: Viking, 1992, p. 1105,
      'Never himself touches a drop of the stuff, you understand. Having been an abstainer since the age of seven or something. A clerky figure even as a child.'




  1. ^ Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “abstainer”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 9.