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 The tail section where Seref and Rumeysa Demirtas had been seated straddled a retaining wall. Washington Post, "A rapid descent leads to screams on severed Turkish plane," 7 Feb. 2020 The Alabama Department of Corrections has requested a $42 million increase in its budget, with much of that aimed at helping to recruit and retain more correctional officers. Mike Cason |, al, "Marsh says lawmakers need to know costs on new prisons," 4 Feb. 2020 Like many of its competitors, Sysco has been forced to raise wages, pay overtime and dangle incentives to recruit and retain drivers in the tight labor market. Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle, "Sysco reports 43 percent increase in profits," 3 Feb. 2020 The defense did a study of retaining-wall contracts in Tokyo and found most didn’t get any bidders. Peter Landers, WSJ, "Jailed Like Ghosn, a CEO Took On Japan’s Justice System," 30 Jan. 2020 The inability to recruit and retain VPSOs magnifies the crippling lack of law enforcement in rural Alaska, a problem the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica documented in depth last year. Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, "Can Alaska’s VPSO program be saved? A task force suggests big changes.," 24 Jan. 2020 Nevertheless, the bonus serves as an effective tool in recruiting strong job applicants and retaining employees. Patrick Danner,, "USAA’s annual employee bonus dips to 14.5% for 2019," 21 Jan. 2020 This allows club to recruit and retain world-class talent. Calum Trenaman, CNN, "Saracens to be relegated for breaching salary cap: How rugby union champions came crashing down and what comes next?," 20 Jan. 2020 On the one hand, MPS faces an extremely competitive environment for K-12 teachers, and its ability to recruit and retain them is linked to their pay and benefits. Rob Henken, Anne Chapman And Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "MPS is proposing to raise taxes to fund educational programs. Here's what to know before you vote April 7.," 16 Jan. 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

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Retain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on retain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for retain

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with retain

Spanish Central: Translation of retain

Nglish: Translation of retain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retain for Arabic Speakers

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