verb (used with object)
  1. to reach, achieve, or accomplish; gain; obtain: to attain one's goals.
  2. 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)
  1. to arrive at or succeed in reaching or obtaining something (usually followed by to or unto): to attain to knowledge.
  2. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for unattained

Historical Examples of unattained

  • 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."

British Dictionary definitions for unattained


  1. (tr) to achieve or accomplish (a task, goal, aim, etc)
  2. (tr) to reach or arrive at in space or timeto attain old age
  3. (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 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