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

However, DeWine postponed all executions in July, citing difficulties obtaining the drugs from pharmaceutical companies that are reluctant to sell the drugs (which have other medical uses) for use in executions. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com, "Ohio prison officials seek to destroy expired execution drugs amid fears they might be used," 13 Sep. 2019 Police did not provide details on what led to the shooting or how the boy obtained the gun. Taylor Pettaway, ExpressNews.com, "Police summoned to San Antonio home numerous times before fatal shooting," 12 Sep. 2019 Just last week, Sierra Leone announced a new visa-on-arrival policy for a number of countries including China, making it the 28th African countries Chinese tourists can visit without obtaining a visa first. Youyou Zhou, Quartz Africa, "Why Chinese are traveling to Africa, and why Africans are traveling to China," 10 Sep. 2019 Tuition excludes the $200 application fee, airfare, costs associated with obtaining passports or visas, baggage charges, trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance, and personal expenses. National Geographic, "Admission Details," 10 Sep. 2019 State auditors obtained all of the Duke Energy invoices paid by the township from January 2014, through November 2017 and identified late payment charges totaling $33,182, Faber said. Cincinnati.com, "Audit: Symmes Township paid over $33K in late fees," 10 Sep. 2019 Most students who obtain a bachelor’s degree stop there; just over a third of those who complete a B.A. go on to get an advanced degree. Musa Al-gharbi, National Review, "Ideological Discrimination in Academia Is More Complicated than You Think," 9 Sep. 2019 Since the pilot began, Wolsey said some center users have been accessing the Lyft rides when coming to play cards or bingo, get their hearing tested, obtain legal advice or participate in the weekly tea dance, for example. Elizabeth Marie Himchak, Pomerado News, "Pilot program is offering limited free rides to seniors," 6 Sep. 2019 In February 2015, Mary Lassiter, as secretary of the governor's executive cabinet, convened a meeting with state education officials to discuss the plan, according to an invitation and emails obtained through a public records request. Alfred Miller, ProPublica, "How Kentucky Gambled for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars From a Broadband Program It Didn’t Qualify for," 4 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for obtain

Last Updated

10 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for obtain

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on obtain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obtain

Spanish Central: Translation of obtain

Nglish: Translation of obtain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obtain for Arabic Speakers

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