at·​tain | \ə-ˈtān \
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 to will probably attain to a height of six feet

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Other Words from attain

attainability \-​ˌtā-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
attainable \-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

TikTok recently attained the traditional social network rite of passage of having Facebook brazenly rip it off. Sam Byford, The Verge, "How China’s Bytedance became the world’s most valuable startup," 30 Nov. 2018 Lu deejayed her live NTS Radio show from Los Angeles in a pair of zip-up, socklike platform sneakers that somehow attained some serious height without a traditional heel. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Only Kelsey Lu Could Pull Off These Freaky Sock-Sneaker Heels," 28 Nov. 2018 But, assuming that the devices someday attain a level of accuracy similar to one another, which device and assistant consumers use will likely come down to other preferences. Rani Molla, Recode, "Voice tech like Alexa and Siri hasn’t found its true calling yet: Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’," 12 Nov. 2018 Among the attendees is a Hannaford protégé who has attained rapid fame, played by Peter Bogdanovich, who went through a similar arc with Welles himself. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The legendary director died before finishing The Other Side of the Wind. But now it’s finished, and there’s a documentary about it, too.," 2 Nov. 2018 Under her direction, the Panthers went 271-234 (.537) and attained the program's first NCAA Tournament bid in 2015 and national ranking in 2017. Gentry Estes, The Courier-Journal, "Pitt's Holly Aprile hired as Louisville's new softball coach," 8 July 2018 As whales became more aquatic and attained huge sizes, though, the pattern reversed. Brian Switek, Smithsonian, "Today’s Whales Are Huge, But Why Aren’t They Huger?," 27 June 2018 With Felipe Gutierrez coming back and possible reinforcements coming during the summer transfer window, does SKC win any hardware again this season?If so, which ones?Peter Vermes is coming close to cementing a status few will attain. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Mellinger Minutes: No M.D. for Chiefs' LDT, finding Royals hope (and an All-Star)," 26 June 2018 Plus, the meat never develops the intense beefiness that dry-aged beef can attain. Nick Kindelsperger,, "Why dry-aged steak is superior, and where to buy it in Chicago for cooking at home," 14 June 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for attain

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for attain

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

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More Definitions for attain



English Language Learners Definition of attain

: 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 \
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?

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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

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