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 Earlier this year, Vega obtained a permit to grow hemp under Connecticut's new pilot program. Michael Hamad, courant.com, "Capitol Watch Podcast: We take you inside a licensed hemp farm in Monroe, where grower Luis Vega tends hundreds of plants," 17 Sep. 2019 The Black Restoration team obtained the remaining $225,000 needed for the project. USA TODAY, "Fugitive pig, proverb library, sodium warnings: News from around our 50 states," 16 Sep. 2019 Ketel Marte is a star in the making, Eduardo Escobar has been a bargain and right-hander Zac Gallen, obtained at the trade deadline, looks like a steal. Kent Somers, azcentral, "Arizona Diamondbacks almost became something more than incredibly average," 13 Sep. 2019 To operate in Costa Mesa, such facilities must obtain conditional use permits and be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas. Priscella Vega, Daily Pilot, "2 Huntington Beach council members seek new ordinances to regulate sober-living homes," 13 Sep. 2019 Rogers was ordered to make repairs, but instead of hiring professionals, he is believed to have enlisted residents to fix up the property without obtaining the necessary permits, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Lyndsay Winkley, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Toxic gas, rodents and bed bugs: Independent living facility operator charged with elder abuse," 12 Sep. 2019 More than 130 people die daily from opioids, with 53% of people getting hooked after obtaining over the counter drugs from family and friends, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alyssa Newcomb, Fortune, "Google Makes It Easier to Find Addiction Recovery Resources," 12 Sep. 2019 And in a sweet exchange during a Wimbledon match in July, Kate obtained a new pair of the coolest sneakers for the young royal. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton Reveals Prince Louis’s Adorable Outdoor Hobby," 11 Sep. 2019 Ultimately, last week, a search warrant was obtained for Bowen’s DNA. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Alleged Serial Rapist Identified As Former Police Recruit," 29 Aug. 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

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for obtain

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

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More Definitions for obtain


How to pronounce obtain (audio)

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

Comments on obtain

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to speed up the process or progress of

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