retain

verb

re·​tain ri-ˈtān How to pronounce retain (audio)
retained; retaining; retains

transitive verb

1
a
: to keep in possession or use
b
: to keep in one's pay or service
specifically : to employ by paying a retainer
c
: to keep in mind or memory : remember
2
: to hold secure or intact
Choose the Right Synonym for retain

keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control.

keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control.

keep this while I'm gone

retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss.

managed to retain their dignity even in poverty

detain suggests a delay in letting go.

detained them for questioning

withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go.

withheld information from the authorities

reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use.

reserve some of your energy for the last mile

Example Sentences

A landlord may retain part of your deposit if you break the lease. They insisted on retaining old customs. You will retain your rights as a citizen. The TV show has retained its popularity for many years. The company's goal is to attract and retain good employees. The team failed to retain him, and he became a free agent. They have decided to retain a firm to conduct a survey. You may need to retain an attorney. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Malzahn was asked this question on Monday and explained that the plan is still to retain the redshirts of Keene and freshman Thomas Castellanos, if possible. Jason Beede, Orlando Sentinel, 17 Nov. 2022 These policies constitute Trumpism, and a GOP that adopts them can retain the loyalty of Trump voters. F.h. Buckley, WSJ, 14 Nov. 2022 Democrats have managed to retain at least their razor-thin majority in the Senate, securing President Joe Biden's influence on the judiciary and a small glimmer of hope for what remains of his agenda. Ken Tran, USA TODAY, 14 Nov. 2022 Offsites: How often will your global team connect in person? Remember: Your stance on these issues may impact your ability to recruit—and retain—talent over the long run. Glenn Solomon, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 If, however, Democrats retain a majority in both or one chamber, the current leadership will likely stay in place. Phillip Nieto, Fox News, 10 Nov. 2022 The result could decide whether Democrats retain their tenuous hold on the 50-50 Senate, especially with two other Senate races (Arizona and Nevada) still to be called. Curtis Bunn, NBC News, 9 Nov. 2022 The Democrats’ hopes to retain control of the Senate hinge on these races, and also two others. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 5 Nov. 2022 Add the kielbasa, if using, and cook until the peppers are soft but retain a bit of bite, about 10 more minutes. Luke Pyenson, Washington Post, 2 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English reteinen, retainen, from Anglo-French retenir, reteigner, from Latin retinēre to hold back, restrain, from re- + tenēre to hold — more at thin

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of retain was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near retain

Cite this Entry

“Retain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retain. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

retain

verb

re·​tain ri-ˈtān How to pronounce retain (audio)
1
a
: to keep in possession or use
you will retain your rights as a citizen
b
: to keep in pay or in one's service
especially : to employ by paying a retainer
retain an attorney
c
: remember sense 3
I can't retain phone numbers
2
: to hold secure or unchanged
land retains heat longer than water

Medical Definition

retain

transitive verb

re·​tain ri-ˈtān How to pronounce retain (audio)
1
: to hold or keep in
retain fluids
2
: to keep in mind or memory

Legal Definition

retain

transitive verb

re·​tain ri-ˈtān How to pronounce retain (audio)
1
: to keep in possession or use
2
: to keep in one's pay or service
specifically : to employ (as a lawyer) by paying a retainer

More from Merriam-Webster on retain

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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