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[ri-ten-shuh n] /rɪˈtɛn ʃən/
the act of retaining.
the state of being retained.
the power to retain; capacity for retaining.
the act or power of remembering things; memory.
Origin of retention
1350-1400; Middle English retencion < Latin retentiōn- (stem of retentiō) a keeping back, equivalent to retent(us) (past participle of retinēre to retain) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
nonretention, noun
overretention, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for retention
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He pleaded eloquently for the retention of the small boroughs.

    The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook
  • The most marked incident in that policy has been the retention of Chitral.

    The Story of the Malakand Field Force Sir Winston S. Churchill
  • The purpose of education is "adaptation,—with the retention of adaptability."

    College Teaching Paul Klapper
  • The hind-quarters should be raised as high as possible, in order to favor its retention.

    Cattle and Their Diseases Robert Jennings
  • The retention and constant enlargement of the public domain.

    Socialism As It Is William English Walling
British Dictionary definitions for retention


the act of retaining or state of being retained
the capacity to hold or retain liquid
the capacity to remember
(pathol) the abnormal holding within the body of urine, faeces, etc, that are normally excreted
(commerce) a sum of money owed to a contractor but not paid for an agreed period as a safeguard against any faults found in the work carried out
(pl) (accounting) profits earned by a company but not distributed as dividends; retained earnings
Word Origin
C14: from Latin retentiō, from retinēre to retain
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 retention

late 14c., from Latin retentionem (nominative retentio) "a retaining, a holding back," noun of action from past participle stem of retinere (see retain). Originally medical; mental sense is from late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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retention in Medicine

retention re·ten·tion (rĭ-těn'shən)

  1. Involuntary withholding by the body of wastes or secretions that are normally eliminated.

  2. The holding by the body of what normally belongs in it, such as food in the stomach.

  3. An ability to recall or recognize what has been learned or experienced; memory.

  4. In dentistry, a period following orthodontic treatment when a patient wears an appliance or appliances to stabilize the teeth in their new position.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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