In engineering, abutment refers to the substructure at the ends of a bridge span or dam whereon the structure's superstructure rests or contacts. Single-span bridges have abutments at each end which provide vertical and lateral support for the bridge, as well as acting as retaining walls to resist lateral movement of the earthen fill of the bridge approach. Multi-span bridges require piers to support ends of spans unsupported by abutments. Dam abutments are generally either side of a valley or gorge but may be artificial in order to support arch dams such as Kurobe Dam in Japan.
The term may also refer to the structure supporting one side of an arch, or masonry used to resist the lateral forces of a vault. The word derives from the verb "abut", meaning to "touch by means of a mutual border".
In the film Tommy Boy (1995) Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley) becomes frustrated by his inability to sell his dead father's brake pads, and he says to his fellow sales partner Richard, "...Every time I drive down the road I wanna’ jerk the wheel into a Goddamn bridge abutment!"
In the film The Big Lebowski (1998) The Dude's car was stolen and later located by the police. The officer who found it told The Dude (Jeff Bridges) "It was discovered last night in Van Nuys lodged against an abutment." (presumably the abutment of a highway overpass). To which The Dude responded "Oh man, lodged where?"