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Obtain (third-person singular simple present Obtains, present participle Obtaining, simple past and past participle Obtained)

  1. (transitive) To get hold of; to gain possession of, to procure; to acquire, in any way.
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Luke XVIII:
      And a certayne ruler axed him: sayinge: Goode Master: what ought I to do, to obtaine eternall lyfe?
    • 1814, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park:
      Julia was quite as eager for novelty and pleasure as Maria, though she might not have struggled through so much to obtain them, and could better bear a subordinate situation.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete) To secure (that) a specific objective or state of affairs be reached.
    • 1722, Daniel Defoe, Colonel Jack:
      he was condemned to die for the felony, and being so well known for an old offender, had certainly died, but the merchant, upon his earnest application, had obtained that he should be transported, on condition that he restored all the rest of his bills, which he had done accordingly.
  3. (intransitive, obsolete) To prevail, be victorious; to succeed.
    • 1701, Jonathan Swift, Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome:
      This, though it failed at present, yet afterward obtained, and was a mighty step to the ruin of the commonwealth.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To hold; to keep, possess or occupy.
    • 1671, John Milton, Paradise Regain'd, Book I:
      His mother then is mortal, but his Sire / He who obtains the monarchy of Heav'n, / And what will he not do to advance his Son?
  5. (intransitive) To exist or be the case; to hold true, be in force.
    • 1908, Jack London, The Iron Heel, ChapterXVII,
      Even though the Pervaise confession had never come to light, no reasonable doubt could obtain; for the act in question [] was on a par with countless other acts committed by the oligarchs, and, before them, by the capitalists.
    • 1992, Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, Bantam Spectra, p. 460,
      But the hostage situation no longer obtains, and so Uncle Enzo feels it important to stop Rife now, []

Adverbs for Obtain

legally; effectually; unethically; surreptitiously; rapaciously; honorably; selfishly; uncharitably; legitimately; singularly; disgracefully; unceremoniously.


accept, acquire, admit, annex, apply, arouse, assume, bag, be, be extant, be found, be in, be in existence, be in force, be met with, be present, be seized of, be the case, be the rage, be the rule, be the thing, be there, breathe, bring, bring back, bring forth, bring on, bring out, bring to light, buy, call for, call forth, call out, call up, capture, catch, chalk up, chase after, come by, come in for, come into, contract, contrive, corral, deduce, derive, derive from, dominate, drag down, drag out, draw, draw down, draw forth, draw from, draw on, draw out, earn, educe, effect, elicit, enter into possession, evoke, exist, fetch, fetch and carry, gain, get, get from, get out of, go after, go and get, go fetch, go for, go get, go to get, grasp, happen to be, harvest, have, have being, have coming in, have place, hold, induce, inspire, instigate, lead, live, make, motivate, net, occur, pick up, predominate, prevail, procure, provoke, pull down, purchase, reap, receive, reign, relate, retrieve, rouse, rule, run after, sack, score, secure, seize, shag, stand, stimulate, subsist, summon forth, summon up, superinduce, take, take in, take on, take over, take possession of, wangle, wangle out of, win, winkle out, worm out, worm out of


From Anglo-Norman obtenir, optiner et al., and Middle French obtenir, from Latin obtinēre (to gain, achieve, succeed, possess), from ob- + tenēre (to hold).