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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The company expects to retain only half of the 8.5 million households on these types of contracts after the law goes into effect in July. Jillian Deutsch, Fortune Europe, 14 May 2024 On top of the three seasons, the A’s have retained an option to stay in West Sacramento for another year pending the completion of the Vegas stadium. Ariane Lange, Sacramento Bee, 13 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for retain 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'retain.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 24 May. 2024.

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
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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