per·​tain | \pər-ˈtān \
pertained; pertaining; pertains

Definition of pertain 

intransitive verb

1a(1) : to belong as a part, member, accessory, or product

(2) : to belong as an attribute, feature, or function the destruction pertaining to war

(3) : to belong as a duty or right rights that pertain to fatherhood

b : to be appropriate to something which rule pertains?

2 : to have reference books pertaining to birds

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Synonyms for pertain


appertain, belong

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Did You Know?

Pertain comes to us 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, obtain, maintain, 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

Most people post-mastectomy already feel a little self-conscious about something pertaining to their reconstruction. Sara Altschule, SELF, "8 Things Not to Say to Someone After a Mastectomy," 3 Dec. 2018 It has even been used as a model for international rules, the convention pertaining to disability. Rachel Withers, Vox, "George H.W. Bush was a champion for people with disabilities," 2 Dec. 2018 Low-level mechanisms pertain to changes like materials cost, wafer area, module efficiency, and the size of the factory making the panels. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "How the falling cost of solar panels can teach us to make new tech affordable," 26 Nov. 2018 There’s been plenty of talk this week about hangovers – not all of it necessarily pertaining to what students might have been feeling the morning after a watershed day for the Washington State campus and the Cougar football program. Theo Lawson, The Seattle Times, "Cougars are at Stanford, hoping to add to the celebrations of last week, not be distracted by them," 26 Oct. 2018 Shortly after his inauguration, language pertaining to LGBTQ communities and their issues were removed from the official White House Page. Jennifer Williams, Glamour, "The Trump Administration's Wish to Erase Transgender People Includes Me. But I'm a Republican.," 23 Oct. 2018 According to Resolve, the national infertility association, only 16 states currently have insurance laws pertaining to infertility treatment, the details of which (for both public and private insurance) vary by state. Jennifer Gerson, Marie Claire, "Health & Fitness," 1 Oct. 2018 The first storyline pertains to Armstrong and his family life, his relationship with his wife Janet, a daughter named Karen who died young, and his two boys, Rick and Mark. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "First Man is a first-rate movie about America’s most revered astronaut," 12 Oct. 2018 Sapiosexuality is all about being attracted to intelligence, so if your fantasies include doing a crossword with bae or discussing that day's english class lecture before getting frisky, the label may pertain to you. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "What is Sapiosexuality?," 12 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pertain.' 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 pertain

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

History and Etymology for pertain

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

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Statistics for pertain

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pertain

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

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More Definitions for pertain



English Language Learners Definition of pertain

: to relate to someone or something : to have a connection to a person or thing


per·​tain | \pər-ˈtān \
pertained; pertaining

Kids Definition of pertain

1 : to relate to a person or thing The laws pertain to hunting.

2 : to belong to as a part, quality, or function These duties pertain to the office of sheriff.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pertain

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pertain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pertain

Spanish Central: Translation of pertain

Nglish: Translation of pertain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pertain for Arabic Speakers

Comments on pertain

What made you want to look up pertain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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