re·tain | \ri-ˈtān \
retained; retaining; retains

Definition of retain 

transitive verb

1a : 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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for retain


hold, keep, reserve, withhold


give up, hand over, release, relinquish, surrender, yield

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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

Examples of retain in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

He has been traded twice and last week became an unrestricted free agent when the Chicago Blackhawks decided not to offer him a contract to retain his rights. Stephen Whyno,, "Blue Jackets sign ex-Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair to $650,000, 1-year deal," 6 July 2018 The team eventually exercised Hillard’s two-way player qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent, meaning the Spurs retain Hilliard’s rights. Jabari Young, San Antonio Express-News, "Off-topic: Darrun Hilliard," 30 June 2018 Conversely, the point guard spot is manned by Brandon Knight, who’s coming off reconstructive knee surgery, rookie Elie Okobo and, if the Suns retain his rights, Ulis. Scott Bordow, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns: Five questions as NBA free agency approaches," 29 June 2018 Roche bought most of the global rights to the drugs — Shionogi retains the rights in Japan and Taiwan — and Genentech, a Roche company, is developing the drug for the U.S. market. Helen Branswell, STAT, "A flu drug — shown to reduce the duration of symptoms — could upend treatment in U.S.," 27 June 2018 The band had to change its name to the Jacksons because Mr. Gordy retained the rights to the Jackson 5 name. Daniel E. Slotnik, New York Times, "Joe Jackson, Domineering Father of a Musical Dynasty, Dies at 89," 27 June 2018 An open question has been whether Mr. Kudlow can retain the staff built by his predecessor, Mr. Cohn, which is highly regarded even among Mr. Cohn’s detractors. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, "White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Kudlow Has ‘Very Mild’ Heart Attack," 11 June 2018 But IO Interactive instead completed a management buyout of the studio, becoming fully independent and retaining the rights to the Hitman franchise. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Hitman 2 will introduce co-op assassinations this November," 7 June 2018 In 2016, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority sought an attorney general opinion on allowing coastal landowners to retain their mineral rights on land built by the state. Sara Sneath,, "As Louisiana's coast washes away, state cashing in on disputed oil and gas rights," 31 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of retain

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

History and Etymology for retain

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

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Phrases Related to retain

retaining wall

Statistics for retain

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for retain

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

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More Definitions for retain



English Language Learners Definition of retain

: to continue to have or use (something)

: to keep (someone) in a position, job, etc.

: to pay for the work of (a person or business)


re·tain | \ri-ˈtān \
retained; retaining

Kids Definition of retain

1 : to keep or continue to use They retain old customs.

2 : to hold safe or unchanged Lead retains heat.

re·tain | \ri-ˈtān \

Medical Definition of retain 

1 : to hold or keep in retain fluids

2 : to keep in mind or memory

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re·tain | \ri-ˈtān \

Legal Definition of retain 

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

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Comments on retain

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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