English edit

Pronunciation edit

Etymology 1 edit

From Late Middle English reteinen, retein (to continue to keep, retain; to continue to possess; to possess; to contain; to draw back, retire; to hold back, restrain; to keep in mind, remember; to take back, repossess; to appoint; to engage in one’s service, employ, hire) [and other forms],[1] from Anglo-Norman reteiner, retenir [and other forms], Middle French retenir, and Old French retenir (to keep back, retain; to keep, maintain, preserve; to possess; to engage in one’s service, employ; to detain; to hold back, restrain; to remember) (modern French retenir), from Vulgar Latin *retinīre, from Latin retinēre, the present active infinitive of retineō (to keep or hold back, detain, retain; to hold in check, stop; to hold fast, maintain; to keep in mind, remember) (compare Late Latin retineō (to keep engaged in one’s service)), from re- (prefix meaning ‘again’) + teneō (to grasp, hold; to hold fast, restrain; to possess; to keep in mind, remember)[2] (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to extend, stretch)).

Sense 1.10 (“to declare (a sin) not forgiven”) is derived from John 20:23 in the Bible, in Late Latin quorum retinueritis, retenta sunt, and in Koine Greek ἄν τινων κρατῆτε, κεκράτηνται:[2] see the 1526 quotation.

Verb edit

retain (third-person singular simple present retains, present participle retaining, simple past and past participle retained)

  1. (transitive)
    1. Often followed by from: to hold back (someone or something); to check, to prevent, to restrain, to stop.
      • 1695, William Temple, An Introduction to the History of England, London: [] Richard Simpson [], and Ralph Simpson [], →OCLC, pages 286–287:
        Upon vvhich Prince Henry enraged, took up the Cheſs-board, and ſtruck the Dauphin vvith ſuch Fury on the Head, that he laid him bleeding on the Ground, and had killed him if his Brother Robert had not retained him, and made him ſenſible hovv much more it concerned him to make his Eſcape than purſue his Revenge, []
      1. (education) To hold back (a pupil) instead of allowing them to advance to the next class or year; to keep back.
    2. Of a thing: to hold or keep (something) inside it; to contain.
      • 1646, Thomas Browne, “Concerning the Loadstone, therein of Sundry Common Opinions, and Received Relations, Naturall, Historicall, Medicall, Magicall”, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: [], London: [] T[homas] H[arper] for Edward Dod, [], →OCLC, 2nd book, page 68:
        [I]f diſtilled Vinegar or Aquafortis be povvred upon the povvder of Loadſtone, the ſubſiding povvder dryed, retaines ſome magneticall vertue, and vvill be attracted by the Loadſtone: []
      1. (medicine) To hold back (tissue or a substance, especially urine) in the body or a body organ.
    3. To hold (something) secure; to prevent (something) from becoming detached or separated.
    4. To keep (something) in control or possession; to continue having (something); to keep back.
      1. To keep (something) in the mind; to recall, to remember.
        • 1690, William Temple, “Of Poetry”, in Miscellanea. The Second Part. [...], 2nd edition, London: [] J. R. for Ri[chard] and Ra[lph] Simpson, [], →OCLC, section, page 307:
          Novv 'tis obvious enough to conceive, hovv much eaſier, all ſuch VVritings ſhould be Learnt and Remembred, in Verſe than in Proſe, [] by the order of Feet vvhich makes a great Facility of Tracing one VVord after another, by knovving vvhat ſort of Foot or Quantity, muſt neceſſarily have preceded or follovved the VVords vve retain and deſire to make up.
        • 1697, Virgil, “The Ninth Pastoral. Or, Lycidas, and Moeris.”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 43, lines 60–62:
          Or that ſvveet Song I heard vvith ſuch delight; / The ſame you ſung alone one ſtarry Night; / The Tune I ſtill retain, but not the VVords.
        • 1731 (date written), Simon Wagstaff [pseudonym; Jonathan Swift], “An Introduction to the Following Treatise”, in A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, [], London: [] B[enjamin] Motte [], published 1738, →OCLC, page xiv:
          [W]hatever Perſon vvould aſpire to be completely vvitty, ſmart, humourous, and polite, muſt by hard Labour be able to retain in his Memory every ſingle Sentence contained in this VVork, []
        • 1958, Gustave Flaubert, chapter 11, in Eleanor Marx-Aveling, transl., Madame Bovary, collector’s edition, New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books, →OCLC, part III, page 366:
          A strange thing was that Bovary, while continually thinking of Emma, was forgetting her. He grew desperate as he felt this image fading from his memory in spite of all efforts to retain it. Yet every night he dreamt of her; it was always the same dream. He drew near her, but when he was about to clasp her she fell into decay in his arms.
    5. To keep (something) in place or use, instead of removing or abolishing it; to preserve.
      • 1549 March 7, Thomas Cranmer [et al.], compilers, “Of Ceremonies: Why Some be Abolished and Some Retayned”, in The Booke of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacramentes, [], London: [] Edowardi Whitchurche [], →OCLC, folio xxxv, verso:
        And yet leſte any manne ſhould bee offended (whom good reaſon might ſatiſfie) here be certayne cauſes rendered, why ſome of the accuſtomed Ceremonies be put awaye, and ſome be retayned and kept ſtill.
      • 1605, Michaell Draiton [i.e., Michael Drayton], Poems: [], London: [] [Valentine Simmes] for N[icholas] Ling, →OCLC:
        VVhich vvhen they found hovv ſtill I did retaine / Th' ambitious courſe vvherein I firſt beganne, / And laſtly felt, that vnder my diſdaine / Into contempt continually they ranne; / Take armes at once to remedy their vvrong, / VVhich their cold ſpirits had ſuffered but too long.
      • 1677, Joseph Mede, “The Apostasy of the Latter Times; []. The Sixth Edition, []. Chapter X.”, in The Works of the Pious and Profoundly-learned Joseph Mede, B.D. [], [4th] edition, London: [] Roger Norton, for Richard Royston, [], →OCLC, book III, page 645:
        [T]hou tookeſt this liberty, to have other Gods beſides the Lord thy God, viz. thy Baalims and Demon-gods of other Nations about thee; and yet hopedſt that Jehovah the God of Heaven, thy only Sovereign God, vvould not be offended thereat, ſince thou retainedſt him ſtill in chief place and honour vvith thee.
      • 1835, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “The Knight of Provençe, and His Proposal”, in Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes. [], volume I, London: Saunders and Otley, [], →OCLC, book II (The Revolution), page 177:
        The palaces of the nobles were not as we see them now— [] but still to this day are retained the massive walls, and barred windows, and spacious courts, in which at that time they protected their rude retainers.
      • 1874, Thomas Hardy, “Coming Home—A Cry”, in Far from the Madding Crowd. [], volume II, London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], →OCLC, pages 99–100:
        People of unalterable ideas still insisted upon calling him "Sergeant" when they met him, which was in some degree owing to his having still retained the well-shaped moustache of his military days, and the soldierly bearing inseparable from his form.
      • 1961 October, “Talking of Trains: Metropolitan Service Revised”, in Trains Illustrated, London: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 584:
        The electric locomotives, which have been a familiar sight for so many years, are to be withdrawn from passenger service, but a few will be retained for miscellaneous non-passenger duties.
    6. To engage or hire (someone), especially temporarily.
      • 1705, J[oseph] Addison, “Pavia, Milan, &c.”, in Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, &c. in the Years 1701, 1702, 1703, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, pages 37–38:
        It is ſuch a Rarity as this that I ſavv at Vendome in France, vvhich they there pretend is a Tear that our Saviour ſhed over Lazarus, and vvas gather'd up by an Angel, vvho put it in a little Cryſtal Vial, and made a Preſent of it to Mary Magdalene. [] It is in the Poſſeſſion of a Benedictin Convent, vvhich raiſes a conſiderable Revenue out of the Devotion that is paid to it, and has novv retain'd the learnedſt Father of their Order to vvrite in its Defence.
      1. (chiefly law) To employ (someone, especially a lawyer) by paying a retainer (fee one pays to reserve another person's time for services); specifically, to engage (a barrister) by making an initial payment to secure their services if needed.
        • 1733, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], Alexander Pope, compiler, “Law is a Bottomless Pit. Or, The History of John Bull. []. The Second Part. Chapter XVI. How John Bull and Nic. Frog Settled Their Accompts.”, in Miscellanies, 2nd edition, volume II, London: [] Benjamin Motte, [], →OCLC, page 143:
          It is vvell knovvn thou retaineſt thy Lavvyers by the Year, ſo a freſh Lavv-Suit adds but little to thy Expences; []
        • 1836 March – 1837 October, Charles Dickens, “Which is All about the Law, and Sundry Great Authorities Learned therein”, in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1837, →OCLC, page 325:
          "Mr. Pickwick is the defendant in Bardell and Pickwick, Serjeant Snubbin," said Perker. / "I am retained in that, am I?" said the Sergeant. / "You are, Sir," replied Perker.
    7. To keep (someone) in one's pay or service; also, (chiefly historical) to maintain (someone) as a dependent or follower.
    8. (reflexive) To control or restrain (oneself); to exercise self-control over (oneself).
    9. (archaic) To keep (someone) in custody; to prevent (someone) from leaving.
    10. (Christianity) To declare (a sin) not forgiven.
      Antonym: remit
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To keep in control or possession; to continue having.
      • 1661, Robert Boyle, “A Physico-chymical Essay, Concerning an Experiment, with Some Considerations Touching the Differing Parts and Redintegration of Salt-petre”, in The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle. [], volume I, London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, [], published 1744, →OCLC, section XVII, page 234:
        [T]he ſpirit is exceedingly acid, and may be called a ſtrong and ſour Acetum Minerale; vvereas the fixt nitre has as ſtrong a taſte of ſalt of tartar as the ſpirit has of diſtilled vinegar: and yet theſe tvvo bodies, vvhoſe ſapours are ſo pungent, and ſo differing, do both ſpring from and unite into ſalt-petre, vvhich betrays upon the tongue no heat or corroſiveneſs at all, but coldneſs mixed vvith a ſomevvhat languid reliſh retaining to bitterneſs.
      • 1766, William Blackstone, “Of Title by Testament, and Administration”, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, book II (Of the Rights of Things), Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Clarendon Press, →OCLC, page 511:
        But an executor of his ovvn vvrong is not allovved to retain: for that vvould tend to encourage creditors to ſtrive vvho ſhould firſt take poſſeſſion of the goods of the deceaſed; and vvould beſides be taking advantage of their ovvn vvrong, vvhich is contrary to the rule of lavv.
    2. To have the ability to keep something in the mind; to use the memory.
      • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, “Of Civill Lawes”, in Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill, London: [] [William Wilson] for Andrew Crooke, [], →OCLC, 2nd part (Of Common-wealth), pages 146–147:
        The things that make a good Judge, or good Interpreter of the Lavves, are, [] Fourthly, and laſtly, Patience to heare; diligent attention in hearing; and memory to retain, digeſt and apply vvhat he hath heard.
      • 1775, W[illiam] Mason, quoting Thomas Gray, “Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. Gray. Section the Fourth. Essay I.”, in [Thomas] Gray, The Poems of Mr. Gray. [], York, Yorkshire: [] A. Ward; and sold by J[ames] Dodsley, []; and J. Todd, [], →OCLC, page 195:
        Alike, to all the kind, impartial Heav'n / The ſparks of truth and happineſs has giv'n: / VVith ſenſe to feel, vvith memory to retain, / They follovv pleaſure, and they fly from pain; []
      • 1785, William Cowper, “Tirocinium: Or, A Review of Schools”, in The Task, a Poem, [], London: [] J[oseph] Johnson;  [], →OCLC, page 320:
        If ſhrevv'd, and of a vvell-conſtructed brain, / Keen in purſuit, and vig'rous to retain, / Your ſon come forth a prodigy of ſkill, / As vvhereſoever, taught, ſo form'd, he vvill, / The pædagogue, vvith ſelf-complacent air, / Claims more than half the praiſe as his due ſhare; []
    3. (medicine) Of a body or body organ: to hold back tissue or a substance.
    4. (obsolete)
      1. To refrain from doing something.
      2. To be a dependent or follower to someone.
      3. (rare) To continue, to remain.
        • a. 1631 (date written), J[ohn] Donne, “To the Countesse of Huntington”, in Poems, [] with Elegies on the Authors Death, London: [] M[iles] F[lesher] for John Marriot, [], published 1639, →OCLC, page 194:
          No more can impure man retaine and move / In that pure region of a vvorthy love: / Then earthly ſubſtance can unforc'd aſpire, / And leave his nature to converſe vvith fire: []
Conjugation edit
Derived terms edit
Related terms edit
Translations edit

Etymology 2 edit


Noun edit

retain (plural retains) (obsolete)

  1. An act of holding or keeping something; a possession, a retention.
    Synonyms: (rare) retainal, retaining, retainment
  2. Synonym of retinue (a group of attendants or servants, especially of someone considered important)

References edit

  1. ^ reteinen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Compare retain, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2023; retain, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ retein, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ † retain, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020.

Further reading edit

Anagrams edit