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 Citing the need to retain valuable employees amid a nationwide labor shortage, more than two dozen small businesses are asking Biden to grant clemency. Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY, 26 Aug. 2021 More manageable slices will cook faster and retain their shape. Alex Beggs, Bon Appétit, 23 Aug. 2021 Season with the salt, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the tomatoes have started to soften but still retain their shape, 10 to 15 minutes. Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2021 Brown tepary beans, or s-oam bavi, have a slightly nutty flavor and can retain their shape and firmness. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, The Arizona Republic, 29 July 2021 Target is one of a growing list of retailers, fast-food companies, and other large service-industry employers that have turned to bonuses and wage increases to retain and attract employees in an historically-tight labor market., 29 July 2021 Slight padding helps the adjustable top retain its shape while the wide band offers some stability. Katharine K. Zarrella, WSJ, 17 July 2021 The lightweight fabric is sweat-wicking with four-way stretch, and is made to retain its shape. Kristi Kellogg, Condé Nast Traveler, 7 July 2021 Employers are offering more flexibility to retain and attract workers—and not just for office work. Jennifer Alsever, Fortune, 1 July 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near retain

retail store


retained income

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Statistics for retain

Last Updated

12 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Retain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for retain



English Language Learners Definition of retain

: to continue to have or use (something) : keep
: 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.


transitive verb
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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transitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on retain

Nglish: Translation of retain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retain for Arabic Speakers


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