at·​tain | \ ə-ˈtān How to pronounce attain (audio) \
attained; attaining; attains

Definition of attain

transitive verb

1 : to reach as an end : gain, achieve attain a goal
2 : to come into possession of : obtain he attained preferment over his fellows
3 : to come to as the end of a progression or course of movement They attained the top of the hill. attain a ripe old age

intransitive verb

: to come or arrive by motion, growth, or effort usually used with towill probably attain to a height of six feet

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from attain

attainability \ ə-​ˌtā-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce attainability (audio) \ noun
attainable \ ə-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce attainable (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for attain


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of attain in a Sentence

a quest to attain enlightenment She refused to let the injury keep her from attaining her goal of being in the Olympics. This kind of tree can attain a height of 20 feet within just a few years. The car can attain a top speed of 200 mph.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web What employees gain from casual workplace interactions is harder to attain when not in an office, so organizations need to establish new ways for employees to connect and discuss the important topics that come up every day. Ulysses Smith, Quartz at Work, "Successful leaders of the future will share three main traits," 9 July 2020 To earn this honor, students must attain a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. cleveland, "It is time for cool fun in the summertime: Olmsted Dates and Data," 5 July 2020 When, how and by whose pens and voices over the course of the 19th century did the United States attain its dominant story? Washington Post, "‘Union’ tells the origin story of the United States through 19th-century voices," 26 June 2020 Offseason hip surgery following his sophomore season eliminated his ability to attain new skills and get stronger, as he was primarily focused on rehab. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: 3 Cowboys rookies who will outperform their draft slot, including the potential steal of the entire 2020 class," 24 June 2020 Her work explores the formation of political attitudes and how marginalized populations use the political system to attain economic needs. Fanta Traore, Fortune, "19 Black economists to celebrate and know, this Juneteenth and beyond," 19 June 2020 Writing in the chaos surrounding the fall of the Roman Empire, the prominent fifth-century theologian St. Augustine asserted that peace was the greatest good humans can attain on Earth. Anna L. Peterson, The Conversation, "No justice, no peace: Why Catholic priests are kneeling with George Floyd protesters," 15 June 2020 West Point graduates receive officers' commissions and often attain the highest ranks in the Army. Michael Collins, USA TODAY, "Trump heads to West Point amid tension with top military brass and a nation whipsawed by racial tension," 13 June 2020 This pay gap persists even as more women in Milwaukee County attain a bachelor's degree than men. Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gender pay gap in Milwaukee persists, and the coronavirus crisis could make it worse," 11 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of attain

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for attain

Middle English atteynen, from Anglo-French ateign-, stem of ateindre to reach, accomplish, convict, from Vulgar Latin *attangere, alteration of Latin attingere, from ad- + tangere to touch — more at tangent entry 2

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about attain

Time Traveler for attain

Time Traveler

The first known use of attain was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for attain

Last Updated

15 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Attain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for attain


How to pronounce attain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of attain

somewhat formal
: to accomplish or achieve (something) : to succeed in getting or doing (something)
: to grow or increase to (a particular amount, size, etc.)


at·​tain | \ ə-ˈtān How to pronounce attain (audio) \
attained; attaining

Kids Definition of attain

1 : to accomplish or achieve attain a goal
2 : to come into possession of : obtain attain knowledge
3 : to reach or come to gradually : arrive at … surely no bug in all the Land of Oz had ever before attained so enormous a size.— L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

Other Words from attain

attainable \ ə-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl \ adjective Are your goals attainable?

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on attain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for attain

Spanish Central: Translation of attain

Nglish: Translation of attain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of attain for Arabic Speakers

Comments on attain

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


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!