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 However, to fully restore public trust and attain broad adoption of contact tracing apps, sound and powerful privacy principles should be backed by the law. David Blumenthal, STAT, "Contact tracing must balance privacy and public health," 15 May 2020 Fuel economists will be glad to hear that on our genteel 1500-mile tour, this American model attained the highest economy figure. Larry Griffin, Car and Driver, "Comparison Test: 1993 Toyota Supra Turbo Takes On the Best Sports Cars of the Early 1990s," 12 May 2020 On the High Speed 1 Channel Tunnel line, Eurostar trains to and from continental Europe reach 186 mph, while domestic services attain 140 mph. HS2 will also triple north-south rail capacity, with as many as 14 trains an hour using the line. Tim Ross,, "Boris Johnson Backs $129 Billion HS2 U.K. Rail Plan Despite Rising Costs," 6 May 2020 Dawn Eshelman, the Rubin’s head of programs, introduces viewers to the deity, who attained enlightenment but decided to stay on Earth in hopes of helping others free themselves from suffering. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Unwind With These Free, Museum-Led Meditation and Mindfulness Sessions," 22 Apr. 2020 Legal advice can only be found via phone, so fewer people have lawyers for their often-complex cases, greatly reducing their chances of attaining asylum. Los Angeles Times, "Aid workers seek to avoid coronavirus outbreak at Matamoros migrant camp," 5 Apr. 2020 The dream of again attaining 7% growth in gross domestic product last experienced during the China commodity boom fades a bit more each year. Washington Post, "Indonesia Needs Its Own Silk Road," 23 Oct. 2019 Aldaoud had immigrated legally to the United States with his family as a baby, but did not go through the process of attaining citizenship and then committed crimes including theft, which put citizenship beyond reach. Liz Goodwin,, "They helped Trump win Michigan, then his immigration crackdown split their community," 13 Oct. 2019 Balvin, who for years spoke to Billboard about the possibility of attaining global success by singing in Spanish, has become one of the biggest music stars in the world. Leila Cobo, Billboard, "J Balvin Signs Management Deal With Scooter Braun's SB Projects: Exclusive," 25 June 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Attain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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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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