ob·​tain | \ əb-ˈtān How to pronounce obtain (audio) , äb- \
obtained; obtaining; obtains

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 : 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
2 archaic : succeed

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Other Words from obtain

obtainability \ əb-​ˌtā-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce obtain (audio) , äb-​ \ noun
obtainable \ əb-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce obtain (audio) , äb-​ \ adjective
obtainer noun
obtainment \ əb-​ˈtān-​mənt How to pronounce obtain (audio) , äb-​ \ noun

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).

Examples of obtain in a Sentence

The information may be difficult to obtain. We obtained a copy of the original letter. These ideas no longer obtain for our generation.
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Recent Examples on the Web Mello thanked all of those who pushed to obtain funding to buy state-of-the-art ambulances and equipment for the city’s firefighters, and singled out the mayor. BostonGlobe.com, 14 Oct. 2021 The Danish String Quartet’s difficulties began mounting in June when the group tried to make appointments with the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen for the interviews needed to obtain their visas. Los Angeles Times, 14 Oct. 2021 House Republicans also passed HB 5007, a bill that would eliminate the fee to obtain a state ID card. Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press, 14 Oct. 2021 This affords pharmaceutical and healthcare brands the opportunity to obtain greater visibility on patient records at the point of care. Harshit Jain, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 To obtain the ore, Resolution Copper plans to use a method known as block cave mining. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 13 Oct. 2021 In a test of reishi mushroom supplements, ConsumerLab found that the cost to obtain 100 milligrams of beta-D-glucan, a primary compound thought to be effective in reishi, varied from a mere 7 cents to $19. Christina Binkley, WSJ, 12 Oct. 2021 New York City tenants can sue their landlords in housing court to obtain repairs, and the city can levy civil penalties against noncompliant building owners. Saritha Ramakrishna, The New Republic, 11 Oct. 2021 Call Bar headquarters at 850- 561-5757, to obtain the application form or visit bit.ly/3zG2sBz. Cindy Kent, sun-sentinel.com, 11 Oct. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of obtain

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for obtain

Time Traveler

The first known use of obtain was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obtain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtain. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for obtain



English Language Learners Definition of obtain

: to gain or get (something) usually by effort
: to continue to be accepted or in use


ob·​tain | \ əb-ˈtān How to pronounce obtain (audio) \
obtained; obtaining

Kids Definition of obtain

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

More from Merriam-Webster on obtain

Nglish: Translation of obtain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obtain for Arabic Speakers


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