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First attested in 1600. From Latin abstēmius ‎(abstaining from wine); from ab, abs ‎(from) + tēmus, root of tēmētum ‎(intoxicating drink, mead, wine), akin to German dämlich ‎(stupid, silly), Old Norse þám ‎(mugginess), Old Irish tám ‎(death), Sanskrit ताम्यति ‎(tāmyati, he becomes stunned, exhausted).



abstemious ‎(comparative more abstemious, superlative most abstemious)

  1. Sparing in diet; refraining from a free use of food and strong drinks; temperate; abstinent; sparing in the indulgence of the appetite or passions. [First attested in the mid 17th century.][1]
    • Instances of longevity are chiefly among the abstemious - John Arbuthnot.
    • Under his special eye Abstemious I grew up and thrived amain. - John Milton
    • 1919, W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, chapter 28
      In the dimness of the landing I could not see him very well, but there was something in his voice that surprised me. I knew he was of abstemious habit or I should have thought he had been drinking.
  2. Sparingly used; used with temperance or moderation. [First attested in the mid 17th century.][1]
  3. Marked by, or spent in, abstinence; as, an abstemious life.
    • One abstemious day. - Alexander Pope
    • 1826, Mary Shelley, The Last Man, Chapter 5
      [...] when I, abstemious naturally, and rendered so by the fever that preyed on me, was forced to recruit myself with food.
  4. (rare) Promotive of abstemiousness.
    • Such is the virtue of the abstemious well. - John Dryden


abstentious, abstinent, continent, self-abnegating, self-denying, sober, temperate

Derived terms[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), page 9