Etymology
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abstain (v.)
Origin and meaning of abstain

late 14c., "avoid (something); refrain (oneself) from; keep free from sin or vice; live austerely, practice abstinence or asceticism; be sexually continent," from Old French abstiner, abstenir (14c.), earlier astenir (13c.) "hold (oneself) back, refrain voluntarily, abstain (from what satisfies the passions), practice abstinence," from Latin abstinere "withhold, keep back, keep off," from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + tenere "to hold," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch." Specifically of liquor from late 14c. Meaning "refrain from voting" is from 1796. Related: Abstained; abstaining.

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abstainer (n.)
mid-15c., "one who practices self-denial," agent noun from abstain. Modern use in the temperance movement and specifically with reference to alcoholic drink is from 1862. French used abstème in this sense, from Latin abstemius.
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*ten- 
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to stretch," with derivatives meaning "something stretched, a string; thin."

It forms all or part of: abstain; abstention; abstinence; abstinent; atelectasis; attend; attenuate; attenuation; baritone; catatonia; catatonic; contain; contend; continue; detain; detente; detention; diatonic; distend; entertain; extend; extenuate; hypotenuse; hypotonia; intend; intone (v.1) "to sing, chant;" isotonic; lieutenant; locum-tenens; maintain; monotony; neoteny; obtain; ostensible; peritoneum; pertain; pertinacious; portend; pretend; rein; retain; retinue; sitar; subtend; sustain; tantra; telangiectasia; temple (n.1) "building for worship;" temple (n.2) "flattened area on either side of the forehead;" temporal; tenable; tenacious; tenacity; tenant; tend (v.1) "to incline, to move in a certain direction;" tendency; tender (adj.) "soft, easily injured;" tender (v.) "to offer formally;" tendon; tendril; tenement; tenesmus; tenet; tennis; tenon; tenor; tense (adj.) "stretched tight;" tensile; tension; tensor; tent (n.) "portable shelter;" tenterhooks; tenuous; tenure; tetanus; thin; tone; tonic.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit tantram "loom," tanoti "stretches, lasts," tanuh "thin," literally "stretched out;" Persian tar "string;" Lithuanian tankus "compact," i.e. "tightened;" Greek teinein "to stretch," tasis "a stretching, tension," tenos "sinew," tetanos "stiff, rigid," tonos "string," hence "sound, pitch;" Latin tenere "to hold, grasp, keep, have possession, maintain," tendere "to stretch," tenuis "thin, rare, fine;" Old Church Slavonic tento "cord;" Old English þynne "thin."
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forbear (v.)
"to abstain," Old English forberan "bear up against, control one's feelings, abstain from, refrain; tolerate, endure" (past tense forbær, past participle forboren), from for- + beran "to bear" (see bear (v.)). Related: Forbearer; forbearing; forbore. Of similar formation are Old High German ferberen, Gothic frabairan "to endure."
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forgo (v.)
"refrain from," Old English forgan "abstain from, leave undone, neglect," also "go or pass over, go away," from for- "away" + gan "go" (see go (v.)). Often, but less properly, forego. Related: Forgoing; forgone.
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supersede (v.)

mid-15c., Scottish, "postpone, defer," from French superceder "desist, delay, defer," from Latin supersedere literally "sit on top of;" also, with ablative, "stay clear of, abstain from, forbear, refrain from," from super "above" (see super-) + sedere "to sit," from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit." Meaning "displace, replace" first recorded 1640s. Related: Superseded; superseding.

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shun (v.)
Old English scunian "to shun, avoid; abhor; desist, abstain; to hide, seek safety by concealment," of uncertain origin; not found in any other language. Perhaps ultimately from PIE root *skeu- "to cover, to hide." Related: Shunned; shunning. A shun-pike (American English, 1911) was a road constructed to avoid tolls.
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fast (v.)

"abstain from food," Old English fæstan "to fast" (as a religious duty), also "to make firm; establish, confirm, pledge," from Proto-Germanic *fastanan "to hold, guard," extended to the religious act "observe abstinence" (source also of Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, German fasten, Old Norse fasta "abstain from food"), from the same root as fast (adj.).

The original meaning in prehistoric Germanic was "hold firmly," and the sense evolved via "have firm control of oneself," to "hold oneself to observance" (compare Gothic fastan "to keep, observe," also "to fast"). Perhaps the Germanic sense shifted through use of the native words to translate Medieval Latin observare in its sense "to fast," or it might have been a loan-translation of a Greek expression brought to the Goths by Arian missionaries and spread from them to other Germanic peoples. The verb in the sense "to make fast" continued in Middle English, but was superseded by fasten. Related: Fasted; fasting.

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vegan (n.)

1944, probably based on a modification of vegetarian; coined by English vegetarian Donald Watson (1910-2005) to distinguish those who abstain from all animal products (eggs, cheese, etc.) from those who merely refuse to eat the animals.

'Vegetarian' and 'Fruititarian' are already associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!) of cows and fowls, therefore it seems we must make a new and appropriate word. As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the rank of VEGANS. [The Vegan News, No. 1, November 1944]
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pledge (n.)

mid-14c., plegge, "surety, bail," from Old French plege (Modern French pleige) "hostage, security, bail," also Anglo-Latin plegium, both probably from Frankish *plegan "to guarantee," from *pleg-, a West Germanic root meaning "have responsibility for" (source also of Old Saxon plegan "vouch for," Middle Dutch plien "to answer for, guarantee," Old High German pflegan "to care for, be accustomed to," Old English pleon "to risk the loss of, expose to danger"), from PIE root *dlegh- "to engage oneself, be or become fixed" [Watkins].

From late 14c. as "person who goes surety or gives bail for another;" late 15c. (Caxton) as "personal property given as surety for a debt or engagement. By 1520s as "a token or sign of favor, agreement, etc.

Meaning "allegiance vow attested by drinking with another" is from 1630s. Sense of "solemn promise, one's word given or considered as security for the performance (or refraining from) an act" is recorded by 1814, though this notion is from 16c. in the verb. Weekley notes the "curious contradiction" in pledge (v.) "to toast with a drink" (1540s) and pledge (n.) "the vow to abstain from drinking" (1833). Meaning "student who has agreed to join a fraternity or sorority" dates from 1901.

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