• synonyms


[uh b-teyn]
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verb (used with object)
  1. 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.
  2. Obsolete. to attain or reach.
verb (used without object)
  1. to be prevalent, customary, or in vogue; prevail: the morals that obtained in Rome.
  2. Archaic. to succeed.

Origin of obtain

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 formsob·tain·a·ble, adjectiveob·tain·a·bil·i·ty, nounob·tain·er, nounob·tain·ment, nounpre·ob·tain, verb (used with object)pre·ob·tain·a·ble, adjectivere·ob·tain, verb (used with object)re·ob·tain·a·ble, adjectiveun·ob·tain·a·ble, adjectiveun·ob·tained, adjective


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1. gain, achieve, earn, win, attain. See get.


1. lose, forgo.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unobtained

Historical Examples

  • And she began already to be envious of Louise's unobtained maid.

    The Eddy

    Clarence L. Cullen

  • Said Arthur, “Is there any one of the marvels yet unobtained?”

    The Mabinogion

    Lady Charlotte Guest

  • That episode flitted by, leaving on memory's camera only the degrading tableau of coin burrowed for and unobtained.

British Dictionary definitions for unobtained


  1. (tr) to gain possession of; acquire; get
  2. (intr) to be customary, valid, or accepteda new law obtains in this case
  3. (tr) archaic to arrive at
  4. (intr) archaic to win a victory; succeed
Derived Formsobtainable, adjectiveobtainability, nounobtainer, nounobtainment, 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

Word Origin and History for unobtained



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