a person or thing that retains.
a servant or attendant who has served a family for many years.
Also called cage, separator. Machinery. a ring separating, and moving with, balls or rollers in a bearing.
  1. a fixed or removable device worn in the mouth to hold the teeth in their new position during the adaptive period after straightening appliances have been removed.
  2. Prosthodontics.a part on a bridge or the like by which the bridge is attached to the natural teeth.

Origin of retainer

First recorded in 1530–40; retain + -er1
Related formsre·tain·er·ship, noun




the act of retaining in one's service.
the fact of being so retained.
a fee paid to secure services, as of a lawyer.

Origin of retainer

1425–75; late Middle English reteinir, probably noun use of Middle French retenir to retain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for retainer

Contemporary Examples of retainer

Historical Examples of retainer

  • Napier thought there was some collusion between the juggler and his retainer.


    Samuel Smiles

  • Do I understand—do you mean that you wish me to accept Cousin Holliday's retainer?

    Thankful's Inheritance

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • And there is no retainer so devoted as he who is allowed to sit on the doorstep.

    Some Reminiscences

    Joseph Conrad

  • They been paying me off—and that's a retainer, you might say.

    Police Your Planet

    Lester del Rey

  • The Resident learned this from a retainer of one of these nobles.

British Dictionary definitions for retainer



history a supporter or dependant of a person of rank, esp a soldier
a servant, esp one who has been with a family for a long time
a clip, frame, or similar device that prevents a part of a machine, engine, etc, from moving
a dental appliance for holding a loose tooth or prosthetic device in position
a fee paid in advance to secure first option on the services of a barrister, jockey, etc
a reduced rent paid for a flat, room, etc, during absence to reserve it for future use
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 retainer

"fee to secure services," mid-15c., originally "act of keeping for oneself" from retain, or perhaps from or influenced by Middle French retenir, infinitive used as a noun. Meaning "fee paid to an attorney to secure his services" is from 1818.


"servant," 1530s, agent noun from retain (v.). Also "one who retains or holds" (1540s). Meaning "dental structure used to hold a bridge in place" is recorded from 1887.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

retainer in Medicine




One that retains, as a device, frame, or groove that restrains or guides, especially for a prosthesis.
An appliance used to hold teeth in position after orthodontic treatment.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.