obtain

play
verb ob·tain \ əb-ˈtān , äb- \

Definition of obtain

transitive verb
:to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort
  • The information was difficult to obtain.
  • We obtained a copy of the original letter.
intransitive verb
1 archaic :succeed
2 :to be generally recognized or established :prevail
  • Those ideas no longer obtain for our generation.
  • a greater degree of free expression than usually obtains in film production
  • —Roger Manvell

obtainability

play \əb-ˌtā-nə-ˈbi-lə-tē, äb-\ noun

obtainable

play \əb-ˈtā-nə-bəl, äb-\ adjective

obtainer

noun

obtainment

play \əb-ˈtān-mənt, äb-\ noun

obtain was our Word of the Day on 06/09/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of obtain in a Sentence

  1. The information may be difficult to obtain.

  2. We obtained a copy of the original letter.

  3. These ideas no longer obtain for our generation.

Recent Examples of obtain from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obtain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Obtain, which was adopted into English in the 15th century, comes to us via Anglo-French from the Latin obtinēre, meaning "to take hold of." "Obtinēre" was itself formed by combination of ob-, meaning "in the way," and the verb tenēre, meaning "to hold." If you have the kind of memory that holds on to etymological sources, you will likely remember that we featured another descendent of "tenere" just days ago. For those whose memories have a less tenacious grip, we'll remind you now that the featured word was "untenable" (and that "tenacious" was also mentioned as a relative).

Origin and Etymology of obtain

Middle English obteinen, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French obtenir, from Latin obtinēre to hold on to, possess, obtain, from ob- in the way + tenēre to hold — more at thin


OBTAIN Defined for English Language Learners

obtain

play
verb

Definition of obtain for English Language Learners

  • : to gain or get (something) usually by effort

  • : to continue to be accepted or in use


OBTAIN Defined for Kids

obtain

play
verb ob·tain \ əb-ˈtān \

Definition of obtain for Students

obtained; obtaining
:to gain or get hold of with effort
  • She was able to obtain a ticket to the show.
  • We obtained permission to enter.

Word Root of obtain

The Latin words tenēre, meaning “to hold,” gives us the roots ten and tain. Words from the Latin tenēre have something to do with holding. Something tenacious holds on and is not easily gotten rid of. To contain is to hold things together inside. To obtain is to get hold of. To retain is to continue to hold.



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