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


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

Portraying itself as a strong ally against Iran has helped Saudi Arabia withstand this firestorm and retain the Trump administration’s support, Miller said. Washington Post, "Trump’s summit to build peace between Israelis and Palestinians is making things awkward for Arab allies," 21 June 2019 In addition to keeping the snails safely secured to surfaces, this temporary adhesive, known as the epiphragm, retains moisture and prevents their bodies from drying out. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Snail-Inspired Super Glue Can Support the Weight of a 200-Pound Human," 20 June 2019 If nothing else, Jenkins’ so-so performance helped the team tank and retain its 2012 No. 1 pick. Jon Becker, The Mercury News, "Grading every Warriors draft pick in Joe Lacob Era," 20 June 2019 With Colliers’ oversight, the town developed a $135 million plan that would have retained 14 percent of the existing high school and rebuilt 86 percent of it. Emily Brindley,, "New firm selected to oversee design of second renovation attempt at Farmington High School," 20 June 2019 So, instead of bemoaning how Cincinnati changes and loses its soul bit by bit, go eat in a place that retains a piece of Cincinnati soul. Polly Campbell,, "Hathaway's: You know it's still open, right? And patty melts haven't gone away," 20 June 2019 Polls show Trudeau bleeding support to the Green Party in British Columbia, where his Liberals must retain seats to win re-election. Anchorage Daily News, "Canada pushes ahead on oil pipeline carrying Alberta oil to port in Vancouver," 19 June 2019 The bill would allow cities to enact or retain regulations that are more restrictive than her bill. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Bill to rein in Airbnb, HomeAway rentals in San Diego County clears major hurdle in state Senate," 19 June 2019 On the more encouraging side, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) clearly had repaired the divide that separated them, thus retaining their crown as America’s Goals Couple. Dan Snierson,, "This Is Us star Justin Hartley on the mystery mother — and what awaits Kevin in season 4," 18 June 2019

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

24 Jun 2019

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 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

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

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showing courage and determination

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