use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

PURCHASE THE DICTIONARY

The online searchable American Heritage Dictionary includes definitions, pronunciations, etymologies, and feature notes. You can purchase the dictionary as an iOS or an Android app—or buy the deluxe printed edition.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their roots back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

Additional information is available in an expanded form in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

ab·stract (ăb-străkt, ăbstrăkt)
Share:
adj.
1. Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.
2. Not applied or practical; theoretical.
3. Difficult to understand; abstruse: abstract philosophical problems.
4. Denoting something that is immaterial, conceptual, or nonspecific, as an idea or quality: abstract words like truth and justice.
5. Impersonal, as in attitude or views.
6. Having an intellectual and affective artistic content that depends solely on intrinsic form rather than on narrative content or pictorial representation: abstract painting and sculpture.
n. (ăbstrăkt)
1. A statement summarizing the important points of a text.
2. Something abstract.
3. An abstract of title.
tr.v. (ăb-străkt) ab·stract·ed, ab·stract·ing, ab·stracts
1.
a. To take away; remove: abstract the most important data from a set of records.
b. To remove without permission; steal: a painting that was abstracted from the museum.
2. To consider (an idea, for example) as separate from particular examples or objects: abstract a principle of arrangement from a series of items.
3. (ăbstrăkt) To write a summary of; summarize: abstract a long article in a paragraph.
4. To create artistic abstractions of (something else, such as a concrete object or another style): "The Bauhaus Functionalists were ... busy unornamenting and abstracting modern architecture, painting and design" (John Barth).
Idiom:
in the abstract
In a way that is conceptual or theoretical, as opposed to actual or empirical.

[Middle English, from Latin abstractus, past participle of abstrahere, to draw away : abs-, ab-, away; see AB-1 + trahere, to draw.]

ab·stracter n.
ab·stractly adv.
ab·stractness n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Have a promotional code?

GET YOUR FREE APP!

Put the entire dictionary at your fingertips—anywhere, anytime!

BUY THE iOS or ANDROID APP

dictionary-app

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari.