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 The records did not elaborate and efforts to obtain additional information from authorities were not immediately successful. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Jefferson County woman accused of bestiality with dog," 28 Apr. 2021 The case marked the second time in four months the newspaper has prevailed in its legal attempts to obtain public health information from state officials. Kate Santich, orlandosentinel.com, "Florida health officials agree to release variant data, pay attorney fees in Sentinel lawsuit," 21 Apr. 2021 To purchase tickets or obtain more information, visit clevelandorchestra.com, write to boxoffice@clevelandorchestra.com, or leave a message at 216-231-1111. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, "Cleveland Orchestra to perform at least 11 concerts with live audiences this summer at Blossom Music Center," 11 Apr. 2021 The tactic also enabled someone to query a set of user profiles and obtain certain information from their public profiles. Paul Ziobro, WSJ, "Was My Facebook Data Leaked? What You Need to Know," 6 Apr. 2021 And Google created plenty of pandemic-specific features to help users obtain information about COVID-19 testing and vaccines, as well as relevant information about business hours. Chris Smith, BGR, "The Google Maps feature you use most just got a few exciting updates," 30 Mar. 2021 Government and state officials will not call you to obtain detailed personal information in exchange for a vaccine. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, "You will never be asked to pay for a vaccine: Watch out for these vaccination scams looking to get your money, information," 28 Mar. 2021 Subpoenas are one of a handful of legal processes law enforcement agencies deploy to obtain user information, at times in connection with an ongoing criminal or other investigation. Johana Bhuiyan, Los Angeles Times, "This is what happens when ICE asks Google for your user information," 24 Mar. 2021 Following a presentation, informational tables will be set up so that residents can obtain more information on the various projects. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "McKinney to hold information session on east side redevelopment projects," 1 Mar. 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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Statistics for obtain

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obtain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtain. Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for obtain



English Language Learners Definition of obtain

somewhat formal : to gain or get (something) usually by effort
formal : 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.

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Comments on obtain

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