I came across this phrase on Stack Overflow and I was a little confused as to its meaning:

Every major browser now has a built in console which your would-be hacker can use with abandon...

I thought abandon meant to leave alone. Word reference says the noun form would be "the feeling of an emotion in a strong and in a carefree way", but what emotion? Where did this use of the word in this context come from etymologically?

  • ...any emotion without constraint - or to put it differently, with abandonment of control. The word's use is straight-forward but you'll probably want to know, instead, how the phrase "with abandon" became idiomatic, I imagine. Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 20:27
  • The first question is general reference: abandon ... n 8. freedom from inhibitions, restraint, concern, or worry: she danced with abandon. Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003 Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 23:26

4 Answers 4


'With abandon' in this context means 'with abandonment of all inhibitions'.

  • This sounds right, but can you provide a source for your assertion? Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 21:45
  • No, I'm afraid I can't. But English has been my native tongue for seventy years (two weeks tomorrow). Is that a sufficient source of authority?
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 21:50
  • 1
    @ChaseSandmann In fairness I suppose it could mean 'with abandonment of some inhibition'. However if you do it 'with complete abandon', that would be with the abandonment of all inhibition'. Does that make sense?
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:06
  • Yeah, it certainly makes sense. I just would like verifiable evidence that the common usage originates from such a phrase. Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:14
  • @ChaseSandmann It is idiomatic. I don't know anything about the etymology of the idiom. One would need to look in a dictionary of idioms. The Urban dictionary gives the following: With abandon - an action done without concern or an action done carelessly/flippantly. The drunk girl threw off her clothes with abandon, as the alcohol had lowered her inhibitions.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:34

When the word abandon has the word with with in front of it it means without concerns or perhaps consequences or care what others think. she danced with abandon or she danced freely. He spent money with abandon or he spent money without thinking of the consequences. they drank with abandon and did not get up for work or they drank without caring about getting up for work. You could drive with abandon, swear with abandon, steal or lie with abandon, or even eat, drink or smoke with abandon. These may all have negative consequences but you are abandoning responsibility for a time. You can dance with abandon, sing with abandon, laugh with abandon or love with abandon. These things might make on feel uncomfortable but you are abandoning your inhibitions for a time.

I am not an English major but it is my native language and this is a funny word that is not really clearly explained in the dictionary.


According to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), the verb abandon has been an English word since the 1300s, but the earliest instance of the noun form of abandon dates only to 1822. Here is the dictionary's entry for the noun form of the word:

abandon n (1822) : a thorough yielding to natural impulses; esp : ENTHUSIASM, EXUBERANCE {with reckless abandon}

The noun's meaning seems most closely related to definition 4 in the Eleventh Collegiate's entry for abandon as a transitive verb:

abandon vt (ME abandounen, fr. AF abanduner, fr. (mettre) a bandun to hand over, put in someone's control) (14c) ... 4 : to give (oneself) over unrestrainedly

I would assume that the "thorough yielding to natural impulses" cited in the dictionary's definition of the noun form arose from the "unrestrained giving over" sense of the verb form.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fifth edition (2010) has a similar definition of abandon as a noun:

abandon ... n. Great enthusiasm or lack of restraint: skied with abandon.

and a similar corresponding definition of abandon as a verb that may have been the source of the noun:

abandon tr.v. ... 5. To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.


The word "abandon" can also describe a lack of restraint or control when used as a noun. "With abandon" can mean lots of things because of the ways this definition can be used figuratively. Often "with abandon" is used to indicate a reckless effort or a far-reaching, unrestricted effort.

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