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

retain

play
verb re·tain \ri-ˈtān\

Simple Definition of retain

  • : to continue to have or use (something)

  • : to keep (someone) in a position, job, etc.

  • : to pay for the work of (a person or business)

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of retain

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to keep in possession or use b :  to keep in one's pay or service; specifically :  to employ by paying a retainer c :  to keep in mind or memory :  remember

  3. 2 :  to hold secure or intact

Examples of retain in a sentence

  1. A landlord may retain part of your deposit if you break the lease.

  2. They insisted on retaining old customs.

  3. You will retain your rights as a citizen.

  4. The TV show has retained its popularity for many years.

  5. The company's goal is to attract and retain good employees.

  6. The team failed to retain him, and he became a free agent.

  7. They have decided to retain a firm to conduct a survey.

  8. You may need to retain an attorney.



Origin and Etymology of retain

Middle English reteinen, retainen, from Anglo-French retenir, reteigner, from Latin retinēre to hold back, restrain, from re- + tenēre to hold — more at thin


First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of retain

keep, observe, celebrate, commemorate mean to notice or honor a day, occasion, or deed. keep stresses the idea of not neglecting or violating <kept the Sabbath by refraining from work>. observe suggests marking the occasion by ceremonious performance <not all holidays are observed nationally>. celebrate suggests acknowledging an occasion by festivity <traditionally celebrates Thanksgiving with a huge dinner>. commemorate suggests that an occasion is marked by observances that remind one of the origin and significance of the event <commemorate Memorial Day with the laying of wreaths>.

keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control. keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control <keep this while I'm gone>. retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss <managed to retain their dignity even in poverty>. detain suggests a delay in letting go <detained them for questioning>. withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go <withheld information from the authorities>. reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use <reserve some of your energy for the last mile>.


RETAIN Defined for Kids

retain

play
verb re·tain \ri-ˈtān\

Definition of retain for Students

retained

retaining

  1. 1 :  to keep or continue to use <They retain old customs.>

  2. 2 :  to hold safe or unchanged <Lead retains heat.>



Word Root of retain

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.


Medical Dictionary

retain

play
transitive verb re·tain \ri-ˈtān\

Medical Definition of retain

  1. 1:  to hold or keep in <retain fluids>

  2. 2:  to keep in mind or memory




Law Dictionary

retain

play
transitive verb re·tain \ri-ˈtān\

Legal Definition of retain

  1. 1 :  to keep in possession or use

  2. 2 :  to keep in one's pay or service; specifically :  to employ (as a lawyer) by paying a retainer





Seen and Heard

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

WORD OF THE DAY

prophetic or oracular

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

confounded-person

Which is a synonym of indolent?

lazy melancholy frenetic philistine
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ