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 formsat·tain·er, nounre·at·tain, verb (used with object)un·at·tained, adjectiveun·at·tain·ing, adjectivewell-at·tained, adjective

Synonyms for attain

1. secure. See gain1.

Antonyms for attain

1, 2. miss. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for attaining

Contemporary Examples of attaining

Historical Examples of attaining

  • For the longer that manoeuver was deferred, the better was his chance of attaining his object.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The gods were ever crafty, and they had unguessed ways of attaining their ends.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • To this method of attaining an object, they have frequent recourse.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • But most men have never had the opportunity of attaining this pre-eminence of evil.



  • Who knows but we may be aiming at the greater, and fail of attaining the lesser?



British Dictionary definitions for attaining



(tr) to achieve or accomplish (a task, goal, aim, etc)
(tr) to reach or arrive at in space or timeto attain old age
(intr often foll by to) to arrive (at) with effort or exertionto attain to glory
Derived Formsattainable, adjectiveattainability or attainableness, noun

Word Origin for attain

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

Word Origin and History for attaining



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