Printable Version
Pronunciation: æb-strækt (adj., n.), æb-strækt (v.) Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Mental, existing in the mind but without physical form, theoretical but unreal (antonym: concrete). 2. (Art) Without traditional recognizable forms. 3. (Noun) A summary of a written work, a precise. 4. (Verb) To remove, take away.

Notes: The shift of accent from the verb to the noun here is a common way of distinguishing 'resultative' nouns from their verbs. An ábstract is the result of abstrácting the complete work, just as a súrvey is the result of survéying, and a rémake is the result of remáking something. The noun for the adjective abstract is abstraction and the adverb, abstractly.

In Play: The original meaning of abstract was "pulling out", and that sense still resides in the verb: "Rhoda Book did a poor job abstracting her new novel. The resultant abstract gives a misleading picture of the book." The sense of the adjective may be perceived as what's left when you pull out all the real stuff: "Creative artists are good at converting abstract ideas into concrete forms."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English makeover of Latin abstractus "drawn away", the past participle of abstrahere "to drag or pull away", comprising ab "(away) from" + trahere "to draw". The prefix comes from Proto-Indo-European apo "off, away" which remained the same in Greek, apo "off, away", but became of and off in English. Trahere evolved from the PIE root tragh- "to draw, drag, move", source of German tragen "to carry, wear", Russian drozhki "carriage" (from drogi), and English drag. (Gratitude is an abstract concept that is due Perry Lassiter for recommending today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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