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

Charles Komanoff, a transit expert retained by medallion interests who favors comprehensive congestion pricing, said at the hearing. Paul Berger, WSJ, "In New York, Looming Congestion Fee Puts Taxi Drivers in a Jam," 3 Dec. 2018 The slightly older Elizabeth is a more tragic figure, but one who has resigned herself to giving up some of her femininity in order to retain her power. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The 9 Oscar contenders coming out in December," 3 Dec. 2018 Huge pro-democracy protests erupted in 2014 in response to the decision by China's ruling Communist Party to retain the right to effectively pre-screen candidates for Hong Kong's leadership. Fox News, "In a first, Hong Kong bans pro-independence political party," 23 Sep. 2018 Kevin optioned the book for just $1 in order to retain creative control and keep Hollywood from whitewashing the cast. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Ross Butler Shared How Proud Watching "Crazy Rich Asians" Made Him Feel," 9 Aug. 2018 Besides, the Nats still have a chance to retain Harper in free agency, one that would diminish were he to be traded. Tom Verducci,, "Nine Innings: How Bryce Harper Is Trying to Revive His Season, What We Learned in the First Half and More," 9 July 2018 Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Doris Meissner, ruled that Elian’s father had custody rights — a decision backed by Attorney General Janet Reno amid other efforts by the Miami relatives to retain custody. Washington Post, "Alan Diaz, news photographer who captured Elian Gonzalez’s saga, dies at 71," 3 July 2018 Ring was one of only three players retained from the 2017 roster by new Eleven coach Martin Rennie and his staff. Kevin Johnston, Indianapolis Star, "New everything for Indy Eleven this season, but same old Brad Ring," 3 July 2018 In my experience playing a press preview of the game, there were only a few bugs (mostly funny ones, like corpses wobbling in midair), and the game retains the series’s recent level of polish. T.c. Sottek, The Verge, "Battlefield V’s single-player stories are the right way to do war games," 20 Nov. 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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Statistics for retain

Last Updated

9 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on retain

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with retain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for retain

Spanish Central: Translation of retain

Nglish: Translation of retain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retain for Arabic Speakers

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).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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