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Recorded in Middle English c.1410 as retreve (altered to retrive in the 16th century; modern form is from c.1650), from Middle French retruev-, stem of Old French (=modern) retrouver (to find again), itself from re- (again) + trouver (to find) (probably from Vulgar Latin *tropare (to compose))


  • IPA(key): /ɹɪˈtɹiv/, /ɹəˈtɹiv/, /ɹiˈtɹiv/
  • Rhymes: -iːv


retrieve (third-person singular simple present retrieves, present participle retrieving, simple past and past participle retrieved)

  1. (transitive) To regain or get back something.
    to retrieve one's character or independence; to retrieve a thrown ball
    • Dryden
      With late repentance now they would retrieve / The bodies they forsook, and wish to live.
  2. (transitive) To rescue (a creature).
  3. (transitive) To salvage something
  4. (transitive) To remedy or rectify something.
  5. (transitive) To remember or recall something.
  6. (transitive, especially computing) To fetch or carry back something.
    • Berkeley
      to retrieve them from their cold, trivial conceits
  7. (transitive) To fetch and bring in game.
    The cook doesn't care what's shot, only what's actually retrieved.
  8. (intransitive) To fetch and bring in game systematically.
    Dog breeds called 'retrievers' were selected for retrieving.
  9. (intransitive) To fetch or carry back systematically, notably as a game.
    Most dogs love retrieving, regardless of what object is thrown.
  10. (sports, transitive) To make a difficult but successful return of the ball.
  11. (obsolete) To remedy the evil consequence of, to repair (a loss or damage).
    • Prior
      Accept my sorrow, and retrieve my fall.
    • Burke
      There is much to be done [] and much to be retrieved.

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retrieve (plural retrieves)

  1. A retrieval
  2. (sports) The return of a difficult ball
  3. (obsolete) A seeking again; a discovery.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ben Jonson to this entry?)
  4. (obsolete) The recovery of game once sprung.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Nares to this entry?)