I've tried to see the definition, but i still don't get it. What is their difference and when to use it?

  • 2
    You need to include in your question the definitions you looked at, and explain why you don't see a difference between the two of them. You also haven't provided any context—give at least a single sentence in which you think either could be used. (Both of those words have multiple senses.) Commented May 22, 2020 at 2:38
  • @JasonBassford Came here because I had the same question. If I would ask it, I'd say: Both translate to the same word in German (as per dict.cc) and I need to choose one. For any context that may come.
    – ygoe
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 20:42

3 Answers 3


Cancel implies the action is rescinded before it implements, possibly consequence-free. It's the word used to bow out gracefully when prompted to confirm an order.

"Cancel our dinner reservation, we have made other plans."

Abort is an emergency procedure to interrupt an action already in progress because continuing would be disastrous.

"Abort the countdown, we'll wait until the weather clears."

  • I've found a nice short summary for that: Cancel = do not start; Abort = do not continue.
    – ygoe
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 20:44

"Cancel" imply if an action is not started. "Abort" imply if an action is started and we do not want to do it.

Cancel Dictionary Definition: If something is cancelled, it's been called off. That's usually a bad thing, but if your flight home from Paris gets cancelled due to weather, consider yourself lucky to have another day of vacation!

  1. Adjective: (of events) no longer planned or scheduled Antonyms: (of events) planned or scheduled

Abort Dictionary Definition: To abort something is to end it. When something is aborted, it's finished. In a movie, you may have seen people on some kind of mission yelling "Abort! Abort!" That means "Stop!" When you abort a plan or activity, you're ending it, usually prematurely. If you abort a dinner, you cancel it in the middle. If the police abort a raid, they stop it after it has already begun. A writer could abort a novel after writing a chapter or two. You can't abort something that hasn't been started: that's more like canceling or postponing.

  1. Verb: terminate before completion eg: “abort the mission” eg: “abort the process running on my computer”
  2. Verb: terminate a pregnancy by undergoing an abortion
  3. Verb: cease development, die, and be aborted
  4. Noun: the act of terminating a project or procedure before it is completed. eg: “I wasted a year of my life working on an abort” eg: “he sent a short message requesting an abort due to extreme winds in the area”
  • Hello Hedayatullah! Please could you add some definitions from a dictionary to back up your answer? Commented May 28, 2020 at 5:39
  • Abort: To abort something is to end it. When something is aborted, it's finished. Definitions of abort:Terminate before completion. Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 2:25
  • Definitions of cancel: declare null and void; make ineffective or postpone indefinitely or annul something that was scheduled Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 2:28
  • Thanks - you should edit your post to include them (there's an edit link at the bottom) rather than adding as comments Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 6:11

"Abort", in this sense, likely derives its meaning from the use of the word by NASA when referring to a last-minute cancellation of a space flight, sometimes by means of using a small rocket to lift the personnel capsule away from the main rocket. It implies using extreme (or at least costly) measures to bring the mission to an end.

  • “ The English word is attested from 1610s as "to deliberately terminate" anything (intransitive), but especially a pregnancy in a human or animal. Intransitive use in aeronautics and space-flight is by 1946. Transitive meaning "to cause (a woman) to miscarry" is recorded by 1916; with the fetus or pregnancy as the object of the action, by 1966. Related: Aborted; aborting. The Latin verb for "produce an abortion" was abigo, literally "to drive away." From etymoline
    – Xanne
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 2:37
  • @Xanne - Yes, I'm well aware of the meaning with regarding to terminate a pregnancy, and this was undoubtedly the almost universal use of the word prior to it's use in aeronautics. My searches found uses in the NASA sense going back to the 50s, and this is the most likely route the term followed prior to being picked up by techies and used to describe computer error handling: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abort,_Retry,_Fail%3F
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 2:52
  • I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t know; I just thought it was interesting information. You know just about everything.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 4:01
  • @Xanne - So long as it doesn't have anything to do with women.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 19:53

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.