re·​tain | \ ri-ˈtān How to pronounce retain (audio) \
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



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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 This offense will retain much of what Garrett put in place but will be different. David Moore, Dallas News, "Cowboys preview: 5 things to know about the Dallas offense, like Mike McCarthy’s three-headed monster and a line dance," 7 Sep. 2020 House Democrats are expected to easily retain the majority, without too many losses. Lisa Mascaro, Star Tribune, "Trump looms large over campaigns for control of Congress," 6 Sep. 2020 Japan and a few other countries still retain small quotas, but the centuries-long killing spree is over. Richard Schiffman, Washington Post, "The mysterious lives and enduring allure of whales," 4 Sep. 2020 Although the bill would force localities to establish the boards, local governments would retain some control over what authority the board has. Tyler Arnold, Washington Examiner, "Bill to mandate civilian review boards of police departments passes Virginia House," 4 Sep. 2020 The algae in the formula helps retain moisture, while green tea, which is high in antioxidants, helps keep fine lines on the lips from forming. Nykia Spradley, Allure, "Tatcha Just Surprised Us With a Really Good End-of-Summer Sale," 3 Sep. 2020 Some exceptions exist for people who need a stipend to live or retain a lawyer, or who need to enter the UK for an urgent reason. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "Britain’s new sanctions regime could be weaponized against Chinese officials," 3 Sep. 2020 The town would retain ownership of the property, and the building and grounds would be used for recreation, art exhibits, summer camp, adult education and other community programs when school was not in session. Jesse Leavenworth,, "Push to involve Manchester redevelopment agency the latest in rejected plans to revive long-dormant school building," 2 Sep. 2020 Although Greece abolished their monarchy in 1973, King Constantine and his five children with Queen Anne-Marie retain their royal titles. Stephanie Petit,, "Royal Wedding Alert! Greece's Prince Philippos Is Engaged to Nina Flohr," 1 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for retain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for retain

Last Updated

11 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Retain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for retain


How to pronounce retain (audio)

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 How to pronounce retain (audio) \
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 How to pronounce retain (audio) \

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 How to pronounce retain (audio) \

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

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