Definition of abstraction in English:


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  • 1The quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.

    ‘topics will vary in degrees of abstraction’
    • ‘That surprising, sinking, excited feeling may be the essence of thought as felt experience, rather than as bare abstraction.’
    • ‘Here the secret of American hegemony has lain rather in formulaic abstraction, the basis for the fortune of Hollywood.’
    • ‘But it is still very uncomfortable when the discourse moves beyond rather bare abstraction.’
    • ‘That would require either a lot of power, or a strong connection to the high level archetypical abstraction of the idea on a broad cultural level.’
    • ‘At that level of abstraction, the idea, though expressed in the design, would not have represented sufficient of the author's skill and labour as to attract copyright protection.’
    • ‘Certainly the idea of number became more and more abstract and this abstraction then makes possible the consideration of zero and negative numbers which do not arise as properties of collections of objects.’
    • ‘Indeed, one might argue that the languages of music and of dance share a degree of abstraction somewhat compromised by the incursion of word and plot.’
    • ‘To do this entails a degree of abstraction in the course of which patternings emerge, patternings of repetition and difference.’
    • ‘In all these cases the process has been one of simplification; of generalisation; and, to some degree, of abstraction.’
    • ‘Similarities across actually encountered expressions allow the extraction of schemas of varying degrees of abstraction.’
    • ‘The question is one which is much affected by the degree of abstraction with which it is posed.’
    • ‘For a start, the level of abstraction in the argument masks some assumptions that I don't think hold - here's why.’
    • ‘At this point, neorealism returns full circle to neoclassical abstraction and its generalizing quality.’
    • ‘He can flit from populist argument to high brow abstraction and then back into quango-speak and then consultancy jargon with amazing felicity.’
    • ‘It is the perspective of abstract ideality that, just because of its abstraction, is morally justified.’
    • ‘‘Through abstraction I aspire towards the infinite rather than the specific,’ she observes.’
    • ‘That said, my ambition was and still is to bring nuclear weapons out of the realm of abstraction and present them as a concrete subject rather than a theoretical policy issue.’
    • ‘Rather than address these questions from the realm of critical abstraction, however, Brown, like Bishop, addresses them from one of particulars.’
    • ‘This may turn into a hypothetical ‘poetics’ of the religious visual image but at least it would be rooted in reality rather than in a realm of abstraction.’
    • ‘That exercise provides no support at all for the idea that Heather is incapable of handling abstraction.’
    1. 1.1Something which exists only as an idea.
      ‘the question can no longer be treated as an academic abstraction’
      • ‘He comes to be disgusted by all abstractions and ideas.’
      • ‘He was a man whose mind was closed to abstractions and new ideas.’
      • ‘Software is not just an abstraction that exists in isolation.’
      • ‘America cannot intervene, because the nation exists only as an abstraction.’
      • ‘When I'm writing I often start out with abstractions and academic jargon, and purge it.’
      • ‘Not for Duncan the abstractions and obscurities of academic Marxism.’
      • ‘The modern way of waging war renders the abstractions of just-war theory obsolete.’
      • ‘Money is a numeric abstraction that facilitates the trade of ideas and goods.’
      • ‘He had instructed her in the great abstractions of German philosophy, as expanded and amended by himself.’
      • ‘Hope is not just a thing, a fantasy, a concept or an abstraction.’
      • ‘At one time, God was more than a hypothetical abstraction, and faith in his providence and design buttressed every major discipline of study.’
      • ‘This historical perspective is by no means simply a theoretical abstraction.’
      • ‘At first the idea was vague and formless, a brilliant abstraction about the surface area of a sphere, which is three times larger than the surface area of a flat chip.’
      • ‘This study shows that throughout his life, Guru Nanak did not indulge in metaphysical abstractions or recondite analysis of various religious thoughts.’
      • ‘Do you think she viewed the men in her life as almost Platonic abstractions, as if she didn't really see the person there a lot of times?’
      • ‘It's because I see gay people as people, not as abstractions or as ‘them’.’
      • ‘He feels the need to retreat into impersonal abstractions, into structures or alleged structures over which the victim has no control.’
      • ‘As long as the military remains an all-volunteer force, they say, war and death could remain distant abstractions for most Americans.’
      • ‘A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society.’
      • ‘It is no easier in central Nairobi than in Britain to resolve the enormous mental disconnection between the abstractions of politics and the specifics of poverty.’
      concept, idea, notion, thought, generality, generalization, theory, theorem, formula, hypothesis, speculation, conjecture, supposition, presumption
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  • 2Freedom from representational qualities in art.

    ‘geometric abstraction has been a mainstay in her work’
    • ‘Many of the quilts on view could almost be, if you squint, works of geometric abstraction by modern painters.’
    • ‘By the 1970s Booth moved from geometric abstraction into drawing and painting his best known images.’
    • ‘Geometric abstraction, thirties activism, and Surrealism had their day in American art, but not at the Intimate Gallery or An American Place.’
    • ‘While Odita's works have roots in patterned geometric abstraction, their choppy contours suggest both turbulence and organic growth.’
    • ‘It is a work of perfect weighting that shows that Hodgkin can still patrol the slippery frontiers between abstraction and representation.’
    • ‘Recent memorials also reflect art's shift from representation to abstraction to a kind of alchemic transformation of image and material into a work of meaning.’
    • ‘In the early years of the 20th century the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was one of the first to take the step from representation to pure abstraction.’
    • ‘These contemporary landscape artists occupy a shifting terrain, bridging abstraction and representation.’
    • ‘Murray is adept at achieving an osmotic relationship of sorts between geometric and painterly abstraction.’
    • ‘The postwar years reignited discussions about the relevance of abstraction versus representation, an issue that had preoccupied many artists before the war.’
    • ‘That show laid out the paradigmatic, innovative modernist journey from representation to abstraction.’
    • ‘One beneficial effect of this curatorial decision was to emphasize that Palermo never gave up representation in favor of abstraction.’
    • ‘Indeed, the animation style moves from abstraction to representation to abstraction again, as if to mirror the processes by which our world was formed.’
    • ‘The time has come to think beyond the divides of Pop and Minimalism, of Dada and abstraction, and of avant-garde and modernism.’
    • ‘Although that series was attractive, the paintings seemed to be testament to the artist's uncertainty of how to resolve the idea of combing abstraction with illusionistic space.’
    • ‘For Matisse, the ultimate task was to separate the boundaries between art and life and to push beyond - try with pure abstraction to attain some idea of the eternal, the sublime.’
    • ‘Such painters as Yamaguchi, Saito and Onosato embraced the ideas of post-war abstraction.’
    • ‘He turned his back on the London art-world and renounced the idea of abstraction, believing that a figurative style would be the only way to convey clearly what he had seen.’
    • ‘He says this is the reason why he chose abstraction and declares that he admires the works of Malevich, Kandisky and Klee.’
    • ‘From the very beginning, he was more interested in realistic art than in abstraction, although his special interest in painting urban landscapes developed later.’
    1. 2.1An abstract work of art.
      ‘critics sought the meaning of O'Keeffe's abstractions’
      • ‘a series of black-and-white abstractions’
      • ‘Malevich was represented by iconic Suprematist abstractions and by less familiar works that preceded and followed his brief zenith.’
      • ‘Aware of the abstractions of Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, Guston moved alongside them, exploring colour, space and painterly touch alone.’
      • ‘Gone were the bronze statues and late-modern abstractions of earlier years.’
      • ‘Gimblett's ostensibly modernist abstractions are constructed, to an extent, like postmodernist pastiches.’
      • ‘Like the Russian icons to which they are often compared, the Malevich abstractions gain spiritual power because they are also so physical.’
      • ‘In another image, he paints himself as a Mondrian abstraction, the hints of his profile enough to jar the harmonious verticals and horizontals out of alignment.’
      • ‘The horizontal bands of sky and sea take on the rich tonal consistencies of a Rothko abstraction.’
      • ‘They are doing abstractions and photography and landscapes.’
      • ‘This relentless rectilinearity is not presented as an underlying metaphysical reality, as in a Mondrian abstraction.’
      • ‘A section of chipboard becomes a painterly abstraction, with a faux bark edge as a frame.’
      • ‘In these large, cartoonlike abstractions, there is an entire primer on the gambles and rewards of painting.’
      • ‘Her delicate abstractions combine digitally generated images with painting or aquatint.’
      • ‘Her recent acrylic abstractions are boldly graphic with radiant colors in dynamic geometric compositions.’
      • ‘Quiet Fire in Blue Sky, a moderately sized oil on canvas, is an abstraction with subtle references to the visible world.’
      • ‘Instead she makes expansive, wall-filling abstractions in her unique vocabulary of dynamic brushstrokes.’
      • ‘At first, it appeared to be an atmospheric abstraction made of green and silvery blue brushstrokes.’
      • ‘The great landscape abstractions from the late '50s and early '60s were the showstoppers in the last of the three large rooms.’
      • ‘In some cases this involves paintings of studio setups that resemble formalist abstractions.’
      • ‘Several atmospheric abstractions in jewellike reds and blues hint at figuration.’
      • ‘Viewed close up, they become satisfying linear abstractions in their own right, in shades of black, white and gray.’
  • 3A state of preoccupation.

    ‘she sensed his momentary abstraction’
    • ‘She seems quiet and reserved, carefully fingering the showy flowers with a wistful air of abstraction, lost in her own thoughts.’
    • ‘The Prince Bishop of Redmond toddled to his seat before the Joint Economic Committee with an air of abstraction and settled himself gently, only to discover that his two Evangelists had no place at the table.’
    • ‘The solicitor listened with an air of glassy-eyed abstraction.’
    absent-mindedness, distraction, preoccupation, daydreaming, dreaminess, inattentiveness, inattention, wool-gathering, absence, heedlessness, obliviousness
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  • 4The process of considering something independently of its associations, attributes, or concrete accompaniments.

    ‘duty is no longer determined in abstraction from the consequences’
    • ‘When, for instance, we claim that water can freeze, we consider water simply as such, in abstraction from the conditions in which any given amount of water finds itself.’
    • ‘I think what plausibility the contrary argument might seem to possess results from treating the act of lighting the cigarette in abstraction from the circumstances as a separate act.’
    • ‘As a result, the world of nature is studied in abstraction from the reality of God.’
    • ‘Duty is no longer determined in abstraction from the consequences or vice-versa.’
    • ‘In abstraction from all such contexts, epistemic questions simply get no purchase.’
    • ‘Then, by a process of abstraction, we are supposed to arrive at the basic ‘non-objective’ ‘layer’ of this experience.’
    • ‘It was by no means the last type of association to detach itself from the state by such a process of abstraction.’
    • ‘‘Blackness’ once again results from the abstraction of a process or movement into an Idea, and once again becomes an ideology.’
    • ‘Some interpreters have Aristotle distinguish the sciences on the basis of their degree of abstraction from matter.’
  • 5The process of removing something, especially water from a river or other source.

    ‘the abstraction of water from springs and wells’
    • ‘This project includes the provision of a new source for the abstraction of water from the River Mahon, at the tidal divide near Ballylaneen.’
    • ‘On the Thames these days, with increased water abstraction, the river tends to go quickly from a flood to a no-flow situation.’
    • ‘Drainage and water abstraction already damage wetlands - peat deposits with all that they can tell us about past environments.’
    • ‘That was a case which involved the Water Resources Act 1963, which prohibited abstraction of water from a river without a licence from the Water Authority.’
    • ‘Water supply in drainage basins is provided either by direct abstraction from rivers or by impoundment, which requires the construction of reservoirs.’
    • ‘The aim is to increase the awareness of the existing legislative and regulatory framework in relation to water abstraction, production limitations and effluent discharges.’
    • ‘At last week's meeting, the councillors raised their own issues or concerns about the water abstraction, which is proposed for the northern, upstream side of Athy.’
    • ‘I have watched the river Wharfe and I am concerned about the number of houses going up in the area and the increased abstraction of water.’
    • ‘The new survey data will help United Utilities to monitor water abstraction more accurately than ever before.’
    • ‘Bad farming practices, soil erosion, water abstraction and the building of dam walls which prevent its upstream spawning migration are just some of the threats it faces.’
    • ‘In this case, this involved costing restrictions on water abstraction and hydroelectric power station operation in order to maintain minimum in-stream flows.’
    • ‘Flow rates have been reduced due to greater water abstraction.’
    • ‘Water abstraction, agricultural runoff, climate change, and pollution from sewage treatment plants have all been blamed.’
    • ‘No doubt reduced flows, due to water abstraction, increased clarity and apparent reduction in numbers of smaller species have all played a part in this increase in bream sizes.’
    • ‘In its submission, the IWAI said the EIS statement showed the abstraction would impact on water levels and considerably affect navigation in average summers.’
    • ‘River keeper John Hounslow said abstraction of millions of litres of water a day from the river at Axford by Thames Water combined with record dry spells had already reduced the river to worrying levels.’
    • ‘Mr Lidington said many water users were already struggling to pay their bills and warned that the Bill's proposals on abstraction could push them even higher.’
    • ‘Strengths of our review were that each chart was reviewed independently at least twice for data abstraction, which limits the chance that data present were missed.’
    extraction, removal, separation, detachment
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/əbˈstrakSH(ə)n/ /əbˈstrækʃ(ə)n/


Late Middle English from Latin abstractio(n-), from the verb abstrahere ‘draw away’ (see abstract).