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

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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


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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 That hypothesis has never been tested, because protests have never gone that far, because until now Iranians were apparently not that desperate for change nor emboldened to try to attain it. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Iran’s regime faces a backlash at home and next door," 19 Nov. 2019 Keep your goals firmly in mind and concentrate on attaining them rather than being drawn into other people's problems. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Nov. 7, 2019: Libra, ignore those who push your buttons; Aquarius, raise expectations," 7 Nov. 2019 The life of a child who has heart, fingerprints, and brain waves but has not yet attained her 22nd week of life could still be ended for any reason. Krista Kafer, The Denver Post, "Kafer: Odds favor passage of a late-term abortion ban in Colorado," 18 Oct. 2019 Jefferson, and later Andrew Jackson, opposed both his goals and his strategies for attaining them. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "The Green New Deal: A Capitalist Plot (Part 2)," 15 Aug. 2019 But what about attaining it, or simply putting it on? Michelle Tea, Harper's magazine, "Stonewall at Fifty," 22 June 2019 Duncan, 40, a zoning and land use attorney by profession, served as a member of the village’s Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals before attaining her first elected office. Steve Sadin,, "2 necomers to Barrington Village Board help create female majority," 14 June 2019 Discharged from the Air Force in 1960, Mr. Lane was an Air Force reservist from 1976 until 1993, and at the time of his retirement had attained the rank of master sergeant. Frederick N. Rasmussen,, "James E. Lane, veteran, electrician and contractor, dies," 17 Oct. 2019 And attaining an education in prison is among the highest predictors that someone will not return to criminal activity. Mike Novogratz For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Giving prisoners a shot at a college education can turn lives around. But they need the government's help," 11 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for attain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for attain

Last Updated

5 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Attain.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 14 December 2019.

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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?

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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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