An abstraction is something nonspecific, a concept that isn't concrete. It can also refer to the state of mind in which a person is not paying attention to something but is lost in thought or daydreaming.

Abstraction is the noun from the adjective abstract, which derives from the Latin abstrahere "to divert." From that, we can get the idea that an abstraction is something that is drawn away from concrete reality. In the art world, an abstraction is a painting or musical piece created in the style of expressionism, in which a subject is not realistically presented or even recognized, but rather is suggested by an emotional flow of paint or music.

Definitions of abstraction
  1. noun
    the process of formulating general concepts by abstracting common properties of instances
    synonyms: generalisation, generalization
    see moresee less
    type of:
    theorisation, theorization
    the production or use of theories
  2. noun
    a general concept formed by extracting common features from specific examples
    synonyms: abstract entity
    see moresee less
    show 139 types...
    hide 139 types...
    psychological feature
    a feature of the mental life of a living organism
    an abstraction belonging to or characteristic of an entity
    group, grouping
    any number of entities (members) considered as a unit
    an abstraction belonging to or characteristic of two entities or parts together
    something that is communicated by or to or between people or groups
    amount, measure, quantity
    how much there is or how many there are of something that you can quantify
    an abstract spiritual world beyond earthly reality
    (mathematics) an abstract collection of numbers or symbols
    cognition, knowledge, noesis
    the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning
    motivation, motive, need
    the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior
    the way something is with respect to its main attributes
    form, shape
    the spatial arrangement of something as distinct from its substance
    the continuum of experience in which events pass from the future through the present to the past
    infinite, space
    the unlimited expanse in which everything is located
    something that happens at a given place and time
    anything owned or possessed
    social relation
    a relation between living organisms (especially between people)
    the communication of something to the public; making information generally known
    human beings, human race, humanity, humankind, humans, man, mankind, world
    all of the living human inhabitants of the earth
    human nature
    the shared psychological attributes of humankind that are assumed to be shared by all human beings
    a distinguishing feature of your personal nature
    (genetics) an attribute (structural or functional) that is determined by a gene or group of genes
    any attribute or quality considered as having its own existence
    common denominator
    an attribute that is common to all members of a category
    the complex of all the attributes--behavioral, temperamental, emotional and mental--that characterize a unique individual
    cheer, cheerfulness, sunniness, sunshine
    the quality of being cheerful and dispelling gloom
    not conducive to cheer or good spirits
    an attribute that tends to give stability in character and morals; something that steadies the mind or feelings
    (anthropology) the distinctive spirit of a culture or an era
    (anthropology) the distinctive expression of the cognitive or intellectual character of a culture or a social group
    an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone
    a basic or essential attribute shared by all members of a class
    heritage, inheritance
    any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors
    position, spatial relation
    the spatial property of a place where or way in which something is situated
    chance, probability
    a measure of how likely it is that some event will occur; a number expressing the ratio of favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible
    the attribute or quality of being deep, strong, or intense
    (physics) the smallest discrete quantity of some physical property that a system can possess (according to quantum theory)
    a set containing all points (or all real numbers) between two given endpoints
    group, mathematical group
    a set that is closed, associative, has an identity element and every element has an inverse
    a communication (usually brief) that is written or spoken or signaled
    contagion, infection
    the communication of an attitude or emotional state among a number of people
    language, linguistic communication
    a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols
    black and white, written communication, written language
    communication by means of written symbols (either printed or handwritten)
    content, message, subject matter, substance
    what a communication that is about something is about
    communication that is suitable for or intended to be instructive
    sign, signal, signaling
    any nonverbal action or gesture that encodes a message
    a public display of a message
    indicant, indication
    something that serves to indicate or suggest
    visual communication
    communication that relies on vision
    exhibiting openly in public view
    expressive style, style
    a way of expressing something (in language or art or music etc.) that is characteristic of a particular person or group of people or period
    paralanguage, paralinguistic communication
    the use of manner of speaking to communicate particular meanings
    auditory communication
    communication that relies on hearing
    phonation, vocalisation, vocalism, vocalization, voice, vox
    the sound made by the vibration of vocal folds modified by the resonance of the vocal tract
    anomalous communication, psychic communication, psychical communication
    communication by paranormal means
    something suggestive of speech in being a medium of expression
    an orderly grouping (of things or persons) considered as a unit; the result of arranging
    a wandering or disorderly grouping (of things or persons)
    a basic group of natural objects
    biological group
    a group of plants or animals
    biotic community, community
    (ecology) a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
    (plural) any group of human beings (men or women or children) collectively
    social group
    people sharing some social relation
    accumulation, aggregation, assemblage, collection
    several things grouped together or considered as a whole
    all of the identical copies of something offered to the public at the same time
    electron shell
    a grouping of electrons surrounding the nucleus of an atom
    ethnic group, ethnos
    people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture
    people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock
    (ecology) a group of organisms (plants and animals) that live together in a certain geographical region and constitute a community with a few dominant species
    cloud, swarm
    a group of many things in the air or on the ground
    domain, domain of a function
    (mathematics) the set of values of the independent variable for which a function is defined
    image, range, range of a function
    (mathematics) the set of values of the dependent variable for which a function is defined
    universal set
    (mathematics) the set that contains all the elements or objects involved in the problem under consideration
    the set of all points or lines that satisfy or are determined by specific conditions
    a distinct and often subordinate group within a group
    a set whose members are members of another set; a set contained within another set
    null set
    a set that is empty; a set with no members
    Mandelbrot set
    a set of complex numbers that has a highly convoluted fractal boundary when plotted; the set of all points in the complex plane that are bounded under a certain mathematical iteration
    mathematical space, topological space
    (mathematics) any set of points that satisfy a set of postulates of some kind
    (mathematics) a set of elements such that addition and multiplication are commutative and associative and multiplication is distributive over addition and there are two elements 0 and 1
    root, solution
    the set of values that give a true statement when substituted into an equation
    saints collectively
    citizenry, people
    the body of citizens of a state or country
    a group of organisms of the same species inhabiting a given area
    hoi polloi, mass, masses, multitude, people, the great unwashed
    the common people generally
    (mathematics) a set of entries in a square matrix running diagonally either from the upper left to lower right entry or running from the upper right to lower left entry
    (Hinduism) the name for the original social division of Vedic people into four groups (which are subdivided into thousands of jatis)
    (law) a judicial division of a state or the United States (so-called because originally judges traveled and held court in different locations); one of the twelve groups of states in the United States that is covered by a particular circuit court of appeals
    scheme, system
    a group of independent but interrelated elements comprising a unified whole
    a group of postage stamps having a common theme or a group of coins or currency selected as a group for study or collection
    the relation of an owner to the thing possessed; possession with the right to transfer possession to others
    a written account of ownership or obligation
    economic value, value
    the amount (of money or goods or services) that is considered to be a fair equivalent for something else
    fundamental measure, fundamental quantity
    one of the four quantities that are the basis of systems of measurement
    definite quantity
    a specific measure of amount
    indefinite quantity
    an estimated quantity
    relative quantity
    a quantity relative to some purpose
    metric, system of measurement
    a system of related measures that facilitates the quantification of some particular characteristic
    the amount of wood in an area as measured in cords
    octane number, octane rating
    a measure of the antiknock properties of gasoline
    magnetisation, magnetization
    the extent or degree to which something is magnetized
    (mathematics) a quantity expressed as the root of another quantity
    the amount of 3-dimensional space occupied by an object
    a relative amount
    a measure of alcoholic strength expressed as an integer twice the percentage of alcohol present (by volume)
    the relation between causes and effects
    human relationship, relationship
    a relation between people; (`relationship' is often used where `relation' would serve, as in `the relationship between inflation and unemployment', but the preferred usage of `relationship' is for human relations or states of relatedness)
    a relation such that one thing is dependent on another
    a relation resulting from interaction or dependence
    logical relation
    a relation between propositions
    mathematical relation
    a relation between mathematical expressions (such as equality or inequality)
    the basis on which something is grounded
    connectedness, connection, connexion
    a relation between things or events (as in the case of one causing the other or sharing features with it)
    the lack of a connection between things
    linguistic relation
    a relation between linguistic forms or constituents
    component, component part, constituent, moiety, part, portion
    something determined in relation to something that includes it
    affinity, kinship
    a close connection marked by community of interests or similarity in nature or character
    family relationship, kinship, relationship
    (anthropology) relatedness or connection by blood or marriage or adoption
    magnitude relation, quantitative relation
    a relation between magnitudes
    a relation of constraint of one entity (thing or person or group) by another
    business relation
    a relation between different business enterprises
    reciprocality, reciprocity
    a relation of mutual dependence or action or influence
    interrelatedness, interrelation, interrelationship
    mutual or reciprocal relation or relatedness
    temporal relation
    a relation involving time
    relation based on similarities and differences
    oppositeness, opposition
    the relation between opposed entities
    a relational difference between states; especially between states before and after some event
    a point or set of points common to two or more geometric configurations
    actinide, actinoid, actinon
    any of a series of radioactive elements with atomic numbers 89 through 103
    lanthanide, lanthanoid, lanthanon, rare earth, rare-earth element
    any element of the lanthanide series (atomic numbers 57 through 71)
    any of five related nonmetallic elements (fluorine or chlorine or bromine or iodine or astatine) that are all monovalent and readily form negative ions
    time unit, unit of time
    a unit for measuring time periods
    point, point in time
    an instant of time
    period of play, play, playing period
    (in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds
    interval, time interval
    a definite length of time marked off by two instants
    the group of journalists and professionals involved in mass communications
    an amusing image, text, or video that spreads rapidly through social media
    a genetically determined or inherited characteristic
    members of one gender considered as a group
    type of:
    that which is perceived or known or inferred to have its own distinct existence (living or nonliving)
  3. noun
    a concept or idea not associated with any specific instance
    synonyms: abstract
    see moresee less
    show 24 types...
    hide 24 types...
    an abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature
    something that is conceived or that exists independently and not in relation to other things; something that does not depend on anything else and is beyond human control; something that is not relative
    a personified abstraction that teaches
    a special abstraction
    the right to obtain or make use of or take advantage of something (as services or membership)
    the right in English law of presenting a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice
    the exclusive right of a country to control the air traffic within its borders
    claim, title
    an informal right to something
    that which is deserved or owed
    access, accession, admission, admittance, entree
    the right to enter
    the parliamentary right to address an assembly
    a right or privilege that has been granted
    human right
    (law) any basic right or freedom to which all human beings are entitled and in whose exercise a government may not interfere (including rights to life and liberty as well as freedom of thought and expression and equality before the law)
    legal right
    a right based in law
    pre-emption, preemption
    the right to purchase something in advance of others
    exclusive right, perquisite, prerogative, privilege
    a right reserved exclusively by a particular person or group (especially a hereditary or official right)
    (law) the right to refuse to divulge information obtained in a confidential relationship
    the right of being represented by delegates who have a voice in some legislative body
    right of action
    the legal right to sue
    right of search
    the right of a belligerent to stop neutral ships on the high seas in wartime and search them
    right of way
    the right of one vehicle or vessel to take precedence over another
    states' rights
    the rights conceded to the states by the United States constitution
    voting right
    the right to vote; especially the right of a common shareholder to vote in person or by proxy on the affairs of a company
    riparian right, water right
    right of access to water
    type of:
    concept, conception, construct
    an abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances
  4. noun
    the act of withdrawing or removing something
    see moresee less
    type of:
    remotion, removal
    the act of removing
  5. noun
    preoccupation with something to the exclusion of all else
    synonyms: abstractedness
    see moresee less
    reverie, revery
    an abstracted state of absorption
    a state of mind characterized by abstraction and release from reality
    brown study
    a state of deep absorption or thoughtfulness
    type of:
    absorption, engrossment, preoccupancy, preoccupation
    the mental state of being preoccupied by something
  6. noun
    an abstract painting
    see moresee less
    type of:
    painting, picture
    graphic art consisting of an artistic composition made by applying paints to a surface
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week