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[uh-teyn] /əˈteɪn/
verb (used with object)
to reach, achieve, or accomplish; gain; obtain:
to attain one's goals.
to come to or arrive at, especially after some labor or tedium; reach:
to attain the age of 96; to attain the mountain peak.
verb (used without object)
to arrive at or succeed in reaching or obtaining something (usually followed by to or unto):
to attain to knowledge.
to reach in the course of development or growth:
These trees attain to remarkable height.
Origin of attain
1300-50; Middle English atei(g)nen < Anglo-French, Old French ateign- (stem of ateindre) < Vulgar Latin *attangere (for Latin attingere), equivalent to Latin at- at- + tangere to touch
Related forms
attainer, noun
reattain, verb (used with object)
unattained, adjective
unattaining, adjective
well-attained, adjective
1. secure. See gain1 .
1, 2. miss. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for unattained
Historical Examples
  • It is the pursuit not of the unattained but of the unattainable to which we are vowed.

    At Large Arthur Christopher Benson
  • Life is a constant reaching after the unattained for ourselves and for the world.

    Judges and Ruth Robert A. Watson
  • She did not lose her hold upon the actual because she was striving after the unattained.

    A Manifest Destiny Julia Magruder
  • For the present the circus must remain an unattained dream to Lou.

    Anything Once Douglas Grant
  • The spirit is your ideal, the unattained, the otherworldly; spirit is the name of your—god, "God is spirit."

    The Ego and His Own Max Stirner
  • The idea is that of a movement of yearning after an unattained good.

  • Fighting with the pen was carried to a point of skill previously unattained.

    Balzac Frederick Lawton
  • Your unattained ambitions, your hopes, and your ideals will be swallowed in the grave.

    A Journey in Other Worlds John Jacob Astor
  • While the object loved is as yet unattained, life is darker than darkest night.

    Zenobia William Ware
  • The developing impulse in the mind of the Founder would never subside while the perfect was unattained.

    Charles Lewis Cocke William Robert Lee Smith
British Dictionary definitions for unattained


(transitive) to achieve or accomplish (a task, goal, aim, etc)
(transitive) to reach or arrive at in space or time: to attain old age
(intransitive) often foll by to. to arrive (at) with effort or exertion: to attain to glory
Derived Forms
attainable, adjective
attainability, attainableness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French ateindre, from Latin attingere to reach, from tangere to touch
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 unattained



c.1300, "to succeed in reaching," from stem of Old French ataindre (11c., Modern French atteindre) "to come up to, reach, attain, endeavor, strive," from Vulgar Latin *adtangere, from Latin attingere "to touch, to arrive at," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + tangere "to touch" (see tangent). Latin attingere had a wide range of meanings, including "to attack, to strike, to appropriate, to manage," all somehow suggested by the literal sense "to touch." Related: Attained; attaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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