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 to will probably attain to a height of six feet

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Other Words from attain

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

Synonyms for attain


achieve, bag, chalk up, clock (up) [chiefly British], gain, hit, log, make, notch (up), rack up, ring up, score, win

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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

Some Reddit users have suggested that all of that—including the Iron Throne in her grasp—are symbols of things she's wanted but will never attain. Glamour, "Game of Thones Fans Think Jon Snow Will Turn Against Daenerys in a Major Way," 11 May 2019 Nevertheless, the publishing company shows it is making strides in helping the company to eventually attain profitability. Ed Christman, Billboard, "Kobalt's Revenue Grows 23.5 Percent, While Net Losses Continue to Widen," 24 Apr. 2018 The new teams are soliciting gifts from donors to help attain financial stability, according to the Davis Enterprise. Michael Mcgough, sacbee, "UC Davis adds 2 women's teams to meet Title IX standards as campus demographics change | The Sacramento Bee," 14 Apr. 2018 The bank helped two of the biggest U.S. firearm and ammunition firms attain $431.1 million in loans and bonds since December 2012, a time when gun control issues re-ignited following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Bloomberg reported. Deon Roberts And Rick Rothacker, charlotteobserver, "Wells Fargo CEO talks role that banks should, and shouldn't, play in gun issue | Charlotte Observer," 27 Mar. 2018 The city will use part of a federal grant that former Congressman Dennis Kucinich helped them attain. Laura Bednar,, "Independence to break ground on new biking and hiking trail in April," 20 Mar. 2018 Research suggests that an inclusive, solidaristic sense of nationalism might help us attain those very goals — freedom, equity, welfare — that are most endangered. Prerna Singh, Washington Post, "Nationalism can have its good points. Really.," 26 Jan. 2018 Ruby absolutely believes that there is no difference between what men and women can attain. Candice Frederick, Teen Vogue, ""On My Block" Star Jason Genao on the Responsibility of Portraying a Gun Violence Survivor and "Showing a Wider View of America" With Ruby," 3 Apr. 2019 The reporter was assigned to the police beat at the time, and was certain that only serious news would help her attain her goal. John D'anna, azcentral, "Arizona Republic's Clay Thompson delighted readers with daily Q&A, irreverent humor," 23 Apr. 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

23 May 2019

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

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?

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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

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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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