From Middle English mayntenen, from Old French maintenir, from Late Latin manūteneō, manūtenēre (I support), from Latin manū (with/in/by the hand, ablative of manus) + tenēre (to hold).


  • IPA(key): /meɪnˈteɪn/, /mənˈteɪn/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn



maintain (third-person singular simple present maintains, present participle maintaining, simple past and past participle maintained)

  1. To keep up; to preserve; to uphold (a state, condition etc.). [from 14th c.]
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act I, scene ii:
      Ther[idamas]. Won with thy words, & conquered with thy lookes,
      I yeeld my ſelfe, my men & horſe to thee:
      To be partaker of thy good or ill,
      As long as life maintaines Theridimas.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XVII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      This time was most dreadful for Lilian. Thrown on her own resources and almost penniless, she maintained herself and paid the rent of a wretched room near the hospital by working as a charwoman, sempstress, anything. In a moment she had dropped to the level of a casual labourer.
    • 2011 November 5, Phil Dawkes, “QPR 2-3 Man City”, in BBC Sport:
      Mancini's men were far from their best but dug in to earn a 10th win in 11 league games and an eighth successive victory in all competitions to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the table.
    • 2013 March, Nancy Langston, “Mining the Boreal North”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 2, page 98:
      Reindeer are well suited to the taiga’s frigid winters. They can maintain a thermogradient between body core and the environment of up to 100 degrees, in part because of insulation provided by their fur, and in part because of counter-current vascular heat exchange systems in their legs and nasal passages.
  2. To declare or affirm (a clause) to be true; to assert. [from 15th c.]
    • 1962 December, “A new Pullman era?”, in Modern Railways, page 362:
      Pullman traditionalists will no doubt maintain that the full-service-at-every-seat principle is popular with their clientele; [...].
    • 2012 April 19, Josh Halliday, “Free speech haven or lawless cesspool – can the internet be civilised?”, in the Guardian:
      She maintains that the internet should face similar curbs to TV because young people are increasingly living online. "It's totally different, someone at Google watching the video from the comfort of their office in San Francisco to someone from a council house in London, where this video is happening right outside their front door."
  3. To keep in good condition and working order.
    • 1946 July and August, Cecil J. Allen, “British Locomotive Practice and Performance”, in Railway Magazine, page 213:
      The admirable smoothness of the riding also reflected the greatest credit on those who, despite the difficulties caused by the shortage of men and materials, have succeeded in maintaining the track in such first-class order.
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To support (someone), to back up or assist (someone) in an action. [14th–19th c.]
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “j”, in Le Morte Darthur, book XV:
      And thenne he asked leue & wente oute of his heremytage for to mayntene his neuewe ageynst the myghty Erle and so hit happed that this man that lyeth here dede dyd so moche by his wysedome and hardynes that the Erle was take and thre of his lordes by force of this dede man.
      "And then he asked leave, and went out of his hermitage for to maintain his nephew against the mighty earl; and so it happed that this man that lieth here dead did so much by his wisdom and hardiness that the earl was taken, and three of his lords, by force of this dead man."
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Author Gives Some Account of Himself and Family, His First Inducements to Travel. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput), page 2:
      When I left Mr. Bates, I went down to my Father; where, by the Aſſiſtance of him and my Uncle John, and ſome other Relations, I got forty Pounds, and a Promiſe of thirty Pounds a year to maintain me at Leyden: there I ſtudied Phyſick two years and ſeven months, knowing it would be uſeful in long Voyages.


  • (antonym(s) of to keep up): abandon

Derived terms