Synonym Chooser

How is the word retain distinct from other similar verbs?

Some common synonyms of retain are detain, keep, reserve, and withhold. While all these words mean "to hold in one's possession or under one's control," retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss.

managed to retain their dignity even in poverty

When is detain a more appropriate choice than retain?

The meanings of detain and retain largely overlap; however, detain suggests a delay in letting go.

detained them for questioning

When might keep be a better fit than retain?

In some situations, the words keep and retain are roughly equivalent. However, keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control.

keep this while I'm gone

When can reserve be used instead of retain?

The words reserve and retain are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use.

reserve some of your energy for the last mile

In what contexts can withhold take the place of retain?

The words withhold and retain can be used in similar contexts, but withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go.

withheld information from the authorities

Thesaurus Entries Near retain

Cite this Entry

“Retain.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on retain

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