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Borrowed from Old French entretenir, from entre (among) + tenir (to hold), from Latin inter + teneō (hold, keep). For the noun, compare French entretien.



entertain (third-person singular simple present entertains, present participle entertaining, simple past and past participle entertained)

  1. (transitive) To amuse (someone); to engage the attention of agreeably.
    to entertain friends with lively conversation
    The motivational speaker not only instructed but also entertained the audience.
  2. (transitive and intransitive) To have someone over at one's home for a party or visit.
    They enjoy entertaining a lot.
    • Bible, Heb. xiii. 2
      Be not forgetful to entertain strangers []
  3. (transitive) To receive and take into consideration; to have a thought in mind.
    The committee would like to entertain the idea of reducing the budget figures.
    to entertain a proposal
    • De Quincey
      I am not here going to entertain so large a theme as the philosophy of Locke.
    • Hawthorne
      A rumour gained ground, — and, however absurd, was entertained by some very sensible people.
  4. (obsolete) To take or keep in one's service; to maintain; to support; to harbour; to keep.
    • Shakespeare
      You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred.
  5. (obsolete) To meet or encounter, as an enemy.
    • Shakespeare
      O noble English, that could entertain with half their forces the full pride of France
  6. (obsolete) To lead on; to bring along; to introduce.
    • Jeremy Taylor
      to baptize all nations, and entertain them into the services and institutions of the holy Jesus

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


entertain (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete) Entertainment; pleasure.
  2. (obsolete) Reception of a guest; welcome.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.8:
      But neede, that answers not to all requests, / Bad them not looke for better entertayne […].

Further readingEdit