[ ri-ten-shuhn ]
/ rɪˈtɛn ʃən /
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the act of retaining.
the state of being retained.
the power to retain; capacity for retaining.
the act or power of remembering things; memory.
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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


non·re·ten·tion, nouno·ver·re·ten·tion, noun

Words nearby retention

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is retention?

Retention is the act of retaining, that is, holding onto or keeping possession of something, as in Kim noted the plant’s successful retention of water.

Retention is also used to refer to the state of being retained or having the power to retain something, as in The lawyer was outraged by the police’s continued retention of his client.

Retention can also mean that something or someone has the power to retain things, especially a person’s ability to retain information in their memory, as in Weekly testing is done to improve students’ retention of what they have learned.

Example: Justine worked hard to improve the retention of skilled employees at her company.

Where does retention come from?

The first record of retention comes from around 1350. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb retinēre, meaning “to retain.” The verb retain has the same origin.

All of retention’s meanings are commonly used. You’re likely to use this word to talk about how well something is at holding or hanging on to something else. For example, a business’s ability to retain employees or, more importantly, paying customers over time is often a key way to tell if a company is growing or failing.

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What are some other forms related to retention?

  • nonretention (noun)
  • overretention (noun)

What are some synonyms for retention?

What are some words that share a root or word element with retention?

What are some words that often get used in discussing retention?

How is retention used in real life?

Retention is often used to describe something’s ability to hang on to things like memories or customers.

Try using retention!

Which of the following is a synonym of retention?

A. release
B. prevention
C. holding
D. discovery

How to use retention in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for retention

/ (rɪˈtɛnʃən) /

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
(plural) accounting profits earned by a company but not distributed as dividends; retained earnings

Word Origin for retention

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