Abstinence definition, forbearance from any indulgence of appetite, especially from the use of alcoholic beverages: total abstinence. See more. This one is pretty simple— abstinence is exactly what it sounds like: waiting to have sex. That may mean until you're married or until you've found the right person. In the Ivy League, abstinence is a) philosophical, b) research-based, c) an outgrowth of feminism, d) sexy and fun, e) all of the above.