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[uh b-teyn] /əbˈteɪn/
verb (used with object)
to come into possession of; get, acquire, or procure, as through an effort or by a request:
to obtain permission; to obtain a better income.
Obsolete. to attain or reach.
verb (used without object)
to be prevalent, customary, or in vogue; prevail:
the morals that obtained in Rome.
Archaic. to succeed.
Origin of obtain
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English obteinen < Middle French obtenir < Latin obtinēre to take hold of, equivalent to ob- ob- + -tinēre (combining form of tenēre to hold)
Related forms
obtainable, adjective
obtainability, noun
obtainer, noun
obtainment, noun
preobtain, verb (used with object)
preobtainable, adjective
reobtain, verb (used with object)
reobtainable, adjective
unobtainable, adjective
unobtained, adjective
1. gain, achieve, earn, win, attain. See get.
1. lose, forgo. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for obtainable
  • Ariel was noted for keeping on deck an enormous box, twelve feet long, packed with the heaviest metal obtainable.
  • The family lived on food they had stored and sparse supplies obtainable with ration cards.
  • No one accused him of neglecting what was obtainable.
  • Strictly fresh eggs should always be used if obtainable.
  • If the presence of oxygen is enabling this effect, maybe different etch rates may be obtainable with different atmospheres.
  • Alcohol and pot are both obtainable to teens, so legality doesn't deter in either case.
  • Either way, the information obtainable by either approach is seriously limited: it requires dialogue.
  • Air tickets are usually obtainable and may even still be discounted.
  • Except when they want to employ that labor at depressed prices to make larger profits than otherwise obtainable.
  • Fitting first year engineering into high school could be an obtainable set of references.
British Dictionary definitions for obtainable


(transitive) to gain possession of; acquire; get
(intransitive) to be customary, valid, or accepted: a new law obtains in this case
(transitive) (archaic) to arrive at
(intransitive) (archaic) to win a victory; succeed
Derived Forms
obtainable, adjective
obtainability, noun
obtainer, noun
obtainment, noun
Word Origin
C15: via Old French from Latin obtinēre to take hold of, from ob- (intensive) + tenēre to hold
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for obtainable

1610s, from obtain + -able. Related: Obtainability.



early 15c., from Middle French obtenir "acquire, obtain" (14c.), from Latin obtinere "hold, hold fast, take hold of, get possession of, acquire," from ob "to" (though perhaps intensive in this case; see ob-) + tenere "to hold" (see tenet). Related: Obtained; obtaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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