en·​ter·​tain ˌen-tər-ˈtān How to pronounce entertain (audio)
entertained; entertaining; entertains

transitive verb

: to show hospitality to
entertain guests
: to provide entertainment for
: to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind
I entertain grave doubts about her sincerity.
: to receive and take into consideration
refused to entertain our plea
: to play against (an opposing team) on one's home field or court
archaic : maintain
obsolete : receive

intransitive verb

: to provide entertainment especially for guests
entertainer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for entertain

amuse, divert, entertain mean to pass or cause to pass the time pleasantly.

amuse suggests that one's attention is engaged lightly.

amuse yourselves while I make dinner

divert implies distracting attention from worry or routine occupation especially by something funny.

a light comedy to divert the tired businessman

entertain suggests supplying amusement by specially contrived methods.

a magician entertaining children at a party

Examples of entertain in a Sentence

They like to entertain their friends at their summer home. Much of his job as a salesman involves entertaining clients. Jugglers were on hand to entertain the crowd. Our father entertained us with stories. Our father's stories entertained us.
Recent Examples on the Web This was a step many member nations wouldn’t entertain prior to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Anna Mulrine Grobe, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Nov. 2023 Jasper Hill Farm Cheese Club Murray’s Cheese Board Club Murray’s cheese board club is perfect for your cousin who loves to entertain, but isn’t going to go down a YouTube rabbit hole to figure out how to style a cheese board. Devra Ferst, Bon Appétit, 10 Nov. 2023 From preparing and freezing desserts to keeping cutting boards clean, these helpful tricks will make your holiday entertaining dinner prep and cleanup easier than ever. People Staff, Peoplemag, 6 Nov. 2023 While Marie Antoinette copes with the isolation of royal living by leaning into the luxury of Versailles, Priscilla feels trapped by the close watch kept on her at Graceland, where she is immediately banned from entertaining any guests of her own. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, 5 Nov. 2023 Guests took the buses into town and while en route were entertained by two drag queens. Alexandra MacOn, Vogue, 2 Nov. 2023 While the near-exact costume entertained fans online, Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind the movie, apparently was not pleased. Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 2023 During Duke Ellington concerts, basketball stars like Fats Jenkins would entertain the crowd between sets, facilitating the deep cultural connection between basketball and Black music that continues today. Jared Bahir Browsh, Fortune, 2 Nov. 2023 But then, with that unbelievably great smile accompanied by his then quite famous wit and charm, out walked Matthew from backstage and proceeded to entertain the audience. Warren Littlefield, Variety, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'entertain.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English entertinen, from Middle French entretenir, from entre- inter- + tenir to hold — more at tenable

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 5a

Time Traveler
The first known use of entertain was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near entertain

Cite this Entry

“Entertain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entertain. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


en·​ter·​tain ˌent-ər-ˈtān How to pronounce entertain (audio)
: to receive and provide for as host : have as a guest
entertain friends over the weekend
: to provide entertainment
: to be a source of entertainment for
entertained us with stories
: to have in mind : consider
entertained thoughts of quitting

More from Merriam-Webster on entertain

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