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 news comes as the company continues its spin-off of Old Navy while retaining its other entities — the Gap store chain, Athleta, Banana Republic, Intermix and Hill City — under the Gap Inc. name. Shwanika Narayan,, "Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck steps down, stock falls," 7 Nov. 2019 Though Catalonia retained its own institutions at first, it was eventually stripped of its independence and integrated more fully into the Spanish state. National Geographic, "Why Spain’s wealthiest region wants independence," 1 Nov. 2019 This contract provides over $6 billion in new product investment creating and retaining over 8,500 jobs. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Ford-UAW contract to bring $1.1 billion in investments to Louisville," 1 Nov. 2019 Four nurses from a Catholic hospital in New York City died in 2004 when their Honda Accord drove through a retaining wall at a Virginia Beach motel and plunged five stories. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "Simple mistakes can lead to cars falling from parking garages in 'freak' accidents," 30 Oct. 2019 Republican state lawmakers have not shied away from the fact that the current lines were drawn to help their Party retain the majority (i.e. 10) of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Court Blocks North Carolina's Congressional Map," 29 Oct. 2019 Heavy machines ripped out narrow culverts and removed retaining walls. Patrick Symmes, Harper's magazine, "The $68,000 Fish," 28 Oct. 2019 Another attorney was appointed conservator in the daughter’s place, who then retained Hamer Law Group to represent him in the final settlement and accounting of the daughter’s conservatorship. William Thornton |, al, "Judge: Guardian must return $3.8 million in Gadsden case," 28 Oct. 2019 Police will be able to access the information and retain it for longer than 30 days if there is an emergency. Mary Grace Keller,, "Visitors to Carroll County government building will soon have photo ID scanned, to be retained for 30 days," 23 Oct. 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

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for retain

The first known use of retain was in the 15th century

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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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