per·​tain pər-ˈtān How to pronounce pertain (audio)
pertained; pertaining; pertains

intransitive verb

: to belong as a part, member, accessory, or product
: to belong as an attribute, feature, or function
the destruction pertaining to war
: to belong as a duty or right
rights that pertain to fatherhood
: to be appropriate to something
which rule pertains?
: to have reference
books pertaining to birds

Did you know?

Pertain comes to English via Anglo-French from the Latin verb pertinēre, meaning "to reach to" or "to belong." Pertinēre, in turn, was formed by combining the prefix per- (meaning "through") and tenēre ("to hold"). Tenēre is a popular root in English words and often manifests with the -tain spelling that can be seen in pertain. Other descendants include abstain, contain, detain, maintain, obtain, retain, and sustain, to name a few of the more common ones. Not every -tain word has tenēre in its ancestry, though. Ascertain, attain, and certain are among the exceptions. And a few tenēre words don't follow the usual pattern: tenacious and tenure are two.

Examples of pertain in a Sentence

books pertaining to the country's history the belief that quality medical care is a right that pertains to everyone
Recent Examples on the Web Investors can obtain data and observe figures for numerous data series pertaining to the economy, including inflation, gross domestic product, unemployment, and interest rates. Joseph Farizo, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 The company is currently facing at least three lawsuits pertaining to carbon monoxide deaths or poisonings. Ben Goggin, NBC News, 30 Nov. 2023 The police did not provide any further information pertaining to the incident. Fox News, 11 Nov. 2023 Those first 32 counts relate to 32 documents that Trump retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the vast majority of which were marked classified and pertained to topics of foreign military capabilities and nuclear weapons, according to the indictment. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 3 Nov. 2023 Musk's legal team wrote: Throughout the course of its investigation, the Commission has had more than ample opportunity to discover all potentially relevant information pertaining to this investigation into an allegedly late Schedule 13 filing. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 3 Nov. 2023 There is a four-hour rule, too, but that pertains to retail establishments, such as restaurants and grocery stores. Ellie Krieger, Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2023 Though Glossopteris officially pertains to the leaves, the name has become associated with the plant when referencing the shrubs and trees that contain the leaves. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 10 Nov. 2023 The agency has few rules that pertain specifically to agriculture, and none about manure lagoons. Maryam Jameel, ProPublica, 25 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pertain.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English perteinen, from Anglo-French partenir, purteiner, from Latin pertinēre to reach to, belong, from per- through + tenēre to hold — more at thin

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of pertain was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near pertain

Cite this Entry

“Pertain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


per·​tain pər-ˈtān How to pronounce pertain (audio)
: to belong to a person or thing as a part, quality, or function
duties that pertain to an office
: to have reference
books pertaining to birds

More from Merriam-Webster on pertain

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