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From Anglo-Norman ataindre, from Old French, from Latin attingō.


  • IPA(key): /əˈteɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn


attain (third-person singular simple present attains, present participle attaining, simple past and past participle attained)

  1. (transitive) To gain (an object or desired result).
    Synonyms: accomplish, achieve, get
    To attain such a high level of proficiency requires hours of practice each day.
  2. (transitive) To reach or come to, by progression or motion; to arrive at (a place, time, state, etc.).
  3. (intransitive) To come or arrive, by motion, growth, bodily exertion, or efforts toward a place, object, state, etc.
    Synonyms: get, reach
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To get at the knowledge of.
    Synonym: ascertain
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, “Section II”, in The Church-history of Britain; [], London: [] Iohn Williams [], →OCLC:
      [] Master Camden, sometimes acknowledgeth, sometimes denieth him for an English Earle. Not that I accuse him as inconstant to himself, but suspect my self not well attaining his meaning therein.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To reach in excellence or degree.
    Synonym: equal
    • 1625, Francis [Bacon], “Of Innovations”, in The Essayes [], 3rd edition, London: [] Iohn Haviland for Hanna Barret, →OCLC, page 139:
      Yet notwithstanding as Those that first bring Honour into their Family, are commonly more worthy, then most that succeed: So the first President (if it be good) is seldome attained by Imitation.
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To reach a person after being behind them.
    Synonyms: catch up with, overtake

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