en·​ter·​tain ˌen-tər-ˈtān How to pronounce entertain (audio)
entertained; entertaining; entertains

transitive verb

: to show hospitality to
entertain guests
: to provide entertainment for
: to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind
I entertain grave doubts about her sincerity.
: to receive and take into consideration
refused to entertain our plea
: to play against (an opposing team) on one's home field or court
archaic : maintain
obsolete : receive

intransitive verb

: to provide entertainment especially for guests
entertainer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for entertain

amuse, divert, entertain mean to pass or cause to pass the time pleasantly.

amuse suggests that one's attention is engaged lightly.

amuse yourselves while I make dinner

divert implies distracting attention from worry or routine occupation especially by something funny.

a light comedy to divert the tired businessman

entertain suggests supplying amusement by specially contrived methods.

a magician entertaining children at a party

Example Sentences

They like to entertain their friends at their summer home. Much of his job as a salesman involves entertaining clients. Jugglers were on hand to entertain the crowd. Our father entertained us with stories. Our father's stories entertained us.
Recent Examples on the Web My overall style goal for this project was to create a fun, welcoming atmosphere for my client, who loves to entertain. Nafeesah Allen, House Beautiful, 30 Aug. 2022 The new data didn’t change the overall inflation picture, leaving Fed officials on course to raise interest rates by 0.75 percentage point at their meeting next week and possibly entertain a half-percentage-point increase in December. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2022 Professional sports franchises not only entertain but drive economic activity to a city. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Oct. 2022 Both host opening-round playoff games next week, with Mountain Brook welcoming in Pinson Valley, while Baker will entertain the 7A Region 2, number 3 seed that will be determined after Friday night’s games. Darron Patterson, al, 27 Oct. 2022 And now, 22 gifts that'll entertain even the most precocious toddler. Shanna Shipin, Glamour, 27 Oct. 2022 As always, this is not to say that these contests and others won’t have the capacity to surprise and entertain, so keep that remote handy. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, 7 Oct. 2022 The home had been a place where volunteers — including local high school students — would come to help entertain residents. Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2021 Let this soundtrack of antique audio entertain the whole family. BostonGlobe.com, 25 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'entertain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English entertinen, from Middle French entretenir, from entre- inter- + tenir to hold — more at tenable

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 5a

Time Traveler
The first known use of entertain was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near entertain

Cite this Entry

“Entertain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entertain. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



en·​ter·​tain ˌent-ər-ˈtān How to pronounce entertain (audio)
: to receive and provide for as host : have as a guest
entertain friends over the weekend
: to provide entertainment
: to be a source of entertainment for
entertained us with stories
: to have in mind : consider
entertained thoughts of quitting

More from Merriam-Webster on entertain

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