Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb en·ter·tain \ˌen-tər-ˈtān\

Simple Definition of entertain

  • : to have people as guests in your home or in a public place (such as a restaurant)

  • : to perform for (an audience) : to provide amusement for (someone) by singing, acting, etc.

  • : to provide or be entertainment for (someone)

Full Definition of entertain

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a archaic :  maintain b obsolete :  receive

  3. 2 :  to show hospitality to <entertain guests>

  4. 3 a :  to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind <I entertain grave doubts about her sincerity> b :  to receive and take into consideration <refused to entertain our plea>

  5. 4 :  to provide entertainment for

  6. 5 :  to play against (an opposing team) on one's home field or court

  7. intransitive verb
  8. :  to provide entertainment especially for guests

en·ter·tain·er noun

Examples of entertain

  1. They like to entertain their friends at their summer home.

  2. Much of his job as a salesman involves entertaining clients.

  3. Jugglers were on hand to entertain the crowd.

  4. Our father entertained us with stories.

  5. Our father's stories entertained us.

Origin of entertain

Middle English entertinen, from Middle French entretenir, from entre- inter- + tenir to hold — more at tenable

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of entertain

amuse, divert, entertain mean to pass or cause to pass the time pleasantly. amuse suggests that one's attention is engaged lightly <amuse yourselves while I make dinner>. divert implies distracting attention from worry or routine occupation especially by something funny <a light comedy to divert the tired businessman>. entertain suggests supplying amusement by specially contrived methods <a magician entertaining children at a party>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up entertain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 9, 2016

marked by high spirits and laughter

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

kittly-benders spindrift duvet pince-nez
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.