verb (used with object)

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.
Obsolete. to attain or reach.

verb (used without object)

to be prevalent, customary, or in vogue; prevail: the morals that obtained in Rome.
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

Synonyms for obtain

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

Antonyms for obtain

1. lose, forgo.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unobtainable

Contemporary Examples of unobtainable

Historical Examples of unobtainable

  • Yes, Smithson; but such a treasure seems to be unobtainable.

    The Queen's Scarlet

    George Manville Fenn

  • All the previous reprints have been and now are unobtainable to most persons.

    Roister Doister

    Nicholas Udall

  • Since unanimity was unobtainable, however, his name was withdrawn later in the day.

  • The particulars of his shipwreck are unobtainable, as is often the case with other explorers.

    The Campers Out

    Edward S. Ellis

  • New suits of clothes were unobtainable at any price, for there was no cloth.

British Dictionary definitions for unobtainable



not able to be obtained



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

Word Origin for obtain

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 unobtainable

1775, from un- (1) "not" + obtainable. Related: Unobtainability.



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