Some current interpretations of abstraction in mathematical settings are examined from different perspectives, including history and learning. It is argued that abstraction is a complex concept and that it cannot be reduced to generalization or decontextualization only. In particular, the links between abstraction processes and the emergence of new objects are shown. The role that representations have in abstraction is discussed, taking into account both the historical and the educational perspectives. As languages play a major role in mathematics, some ideas from functional linguistics are applied to explain to what extent mathematical notations are to be considered abstract. Finally, abstraction is examined from the perspective of mathematics education, to show that the teaching ideas resulting from one–dimensional interpretations of abstraction have proved utterly unsuccessful.