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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for pertain


appertain, apply, bear, refer, relate

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Anyone with information pertaining to the robberies is asked to contact the FBI by calling 916-746-7000. Molly Sullivan, sacbee, "Serial robber still targeting banks, FBI says – does this guy in the hoodie ring a bell?," 31 May 2018 Department spokesman Jason Dobson said state law pertaining to the Criminal Offender Record Information system, or CORI, prevented the agency from naming the inmate., "New England news in brief," 28 June 2018 Monday's Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal regulations that prevent states from making their own laws pertaining to sports gambling did not legalize the practice just yet. Khadrice Rollins,, "NCAA Will Host Championships in States That Permit Sports Gambling," 17 May 2018 The superintendent, Chris Houston, has declined to discuss his employment status, citing federal and state privacy laws pertaining to personnel issues. Nesa Mangal, Good Housekeeping, "Teacher Caught on Video Going Off on a Student in Class," 11 Mar. 2016 These calls weren’t just for livestock issues, but for all issues pertaining to black vultures. Jordyn Hermani, Indianapolis Star, "Black vultures are eating cows alive. But it's difficult to legally kill the birds.," 13 July 2018 July's first eclipse on Thursday, July 12 highlights your domestic zone, directly impacting issues pertaining to your emotional foundation. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What July's Aries Horoscope Means for You," 29 June 2018 But most Republicans are discussing a series of other measures to address the situation, proving that like most issues pertaining to immigration, a legislative fix is going to be difficult to achieve. NBC News, "No clear path forward in Congress to end family separations," 19 June 2018 Furthermore, after outlining the potential issues pertaining to Ronaldo's sponsorship deal with Nike, the report went on to reveal Madrid have broken several promises to the 33-year-old regarding his pay with the La Liga giants., "Spanish Report Provides Update on Ronaldo's Real Madrid Issues as Future Remains Uncertain," 6 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pertain

Listen to Our Podcast about pertain

Statistics for pertain

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pertain

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!