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 \ ə-​ˌtā-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce attain (audio) \ noun
attainable \ ə-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce attain (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 SpaceX was set to test-launch a stainless steel Starship SN9 prototype, but the company failed to attain the appropriate FAA approval, reported. Peter Aitken, Fox News, "SpaceX targets Monday launch of additional Starlink satellites, announces next crew mission," 31 Jan. 2021 Late Sunday afternoon in Raleigh, N.C., the Stars were pushing hard to attain something that had previously been unheard of in the regular-season world of the National Hockey League. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "Jamie Benn’s return lights a fire under Stars, helps them salvage point in shootout loss to Carolina," 31 Jan. 2021 Early mass vaccination to attain community immunity may be the only sustainable way for these countries to control the second wave. Uwagbale Edward-ekpu, Quartz Africa, "African countries are turning to Russia, India, and China for Covid vaccines despite skepticism," 9 Jan. 2021 In an effort to attain the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, New Mexico’s liberal politicians are handing out some of the most generous subsidies available anywhere to Hollywood film companies. Paul Gessing, National Review, "Netflix Fueled by Oil and Gas in New Mexico," 25 Dec. 2020 Many years ago, organic humanity chose to initiate the sequences to upload their minds onto an inorganic platform and thereby attain immortality. Lettie Prell, Wired, "The Future of Work: ‘Collaborative Configurations of Minds’ by Lettie Prell," 4 Dec. 2020 Their leader is Faxe, a benign follower of the Old Way, who eventually will attain power in Karhide. Harold Bloom, The New Yorker, "The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”," 20 Nov. 2020 His goal is to attain a carbon-free power sector by 2035. oregonlive, "Oregon’s Ron Wyden sets ambitious goals for new Democratic Senate majority," 13 Jan. 2021 The division has three teams vying for its title on the final day of the season, but the best record any of them can attain is 7-9, and there’s a nonzero chance of a 6-10 team hosting a first-round playoff game. New York Times, "N.F.L. Week 17 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread," 31 Dec. 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.

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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

22 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Attain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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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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