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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for obtainable
Historical Examples
  • Where such a flame is not obtainable, a hot carbon rod is used.

  • Surely the information is obtainable, if not from Mr. Morley, then from some other source.

    Ireland as It Is Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)
  • No gold nor ivory nor other article of value was obtainable.

  • Only by doing the will of the Father is the saving grace of the Son obtainable.

    Jesus the Christ James Edward Talmage
  • Meat is often used—when obtainable—dried, in strips, generally of beef.

    Mexico Charles Reginald Enock
  • Rarely for sale in nurseries, but obtainable from collectors.

  • The rest of the band were in the story below them, from which a view was also obtainable.

    No Surrender! G. A. Henty
  • But they were more addicted to horse and donkey flesh if obtainable.

  • He had ascertained that no picture post cards of it were obtainable in the village.

  • The duration of the light in this case far exceeds that obtainable with rods.

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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