Simple Definition of obtain
: to gain or get (something) usually by effort
: to continue to be accepted or in use
Full Definition of obtain
Examples of obtain in a sentence
The information may be difficult to obtain.
We obtained a copy of the original letter.
These ideas no longer obtain for our generation.
Did You Know?
Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning "to take hold of." "Obtinēre" was itself formed by combination of ob-, meaning "in the way," and the verb tenēre, meaning "to hold." If you have the kind of memory that holds on to etymological sources, you will likely remember that we featured another descendent of "tenere" just days ago. For those whose memories have a less tenacious grip, we'll remind you now that the featured word was "untenable" (and that "tenacious" was also mentioned as a relative).
Origin of obtain
Middle English obteinen, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French obtenir, from Latin obtinēre to hold on to, possess, obtain, from ob- in the way + tenēre to hold — more at thin
First Known Use: 15th century
OBTAIN Defined for Kids
Definition of obtain for Students
: to gain or get hold of with effort <She was able to obtain a ticket to the show.> <We obtained permission to enter.>
Word Root of obtain
The Latin words tenēre, meaning “to hold,” gives us the roots ten and tain. Words from the Latin tenēre have something to do with holding. Something tenacious holds on and is not easily gotten rid of. To contain is to hold things together inside. To obtain is to get hold of. To retain is to continue to hold.
Seen and Heard
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