from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To gain as an objective; achieve.
  • intransitive verb To come to or arrive at, as through movement, growth, or the passage of time.
  • intransitive verb To succeed in a directed effort, process, or progression.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Something attained. Glanville.
  • To touch; strike; hit.
  • To touch upon; mention.
  • To convict; condemn. Compare attaint, v., 3-5.
  • To come so near as to touch; reach, achieve, or accomplish (an end or object) by continued effort; come into possession of; acquire; gain.
  • To come to or arrive at (a place); reach (a place, time, or state).
  • To reach in excellence or degree; equal.
  • To overtake; come up with: as, “not attaining him in time,” Bacon.
  • To come to know; experience.
  • To reach; come or arrive by motion, bodily or mental exertion, or efforts of any kind: followed by to or unto.
  • To pertain; have relation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete Attainment.
  • intransitive verb To come or arrive, by motion, growth, bodily exertion, or efforts toward a place, object, state, etc.; to reach.
  • intransitive verb To come or arrive, by an effort of mind.
  • transitive verb To achieve or accomplish, that is, to reach by efforts; to gain; to compass.
  • transitive verb Obs. with a material object. To gain or obtain possession of; to acquire.
  • transitive verb obsolete To get at the knowledge of; to ascertain.
  • transitive verb To reach or come to, by progression or motion; to arrive at.
  • transitive verb obsolete To overtake.
  • transitive verb To reach in excellence or degree; to equal.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To accomplish; to achieve.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb reach a destination, either real or abstract
  • verb reach a point in time, or a certain state or level
  • verb find unexpectedly
  • verb to gain with effort


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English atteinen, from Old French ataindre, ataign-, to reach to, from Vulgar Latin *attangere, from Latin attingere : ad-, ad- + tangere, to touch; see tag- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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


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  • And just the fact that you used the word attain instead of obtain, tells me you think the latter is fine.

    Passive And On Her Back: Advertising A Headset » Sociological Images 2009

  • We may never again attain the stature this president and his criminal cohorts have so brutally wasted in their headlong grab for oil money and power.

    Think Progress » Rep. King: My Wife ‘Is At Far Greater Risk Being a Civilian In D.C. Than An Average Civilian In Iraq’ 2006

  • Sartre's existentialism may be understood in the sense that the degree of happiness which an individual can hope to attain is governed by his willingness to take his stand in accordance with his ethos and to accept the consequences thereof; this is a more austere interpretation of a philosophy admirably expressed by Nobel's contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    Nobel Prize in Literature 1964 - Press Release 1964

  • Indeed, the security which our children attain is likened to that of children in our ordinary third elementary grade.

    The Montessori Method Anne E. Montessori George 1912

  • I use the word attain because I believe this faith requires some ongoing effort on our part.

    Jesus community 2008

  • Maybe they’re right, if we let Palin attain a leadership position because we are too politically correct to call her a phu (king retard, well that would be dangerous for this country.

    Think Progress » Palin attacks Family Guy’s ‘satire’ after excusing Limbaugh’s. 2010

  • The other goal they trying to attain is to wipe out racial, social, class, what-have-you barriers; to treat all the children in New York as equals with equal potential.

    ianrandalstrock's Journal ianrandalstrock 2008

  • These people deserve to be addressed with the amount of dignity that their views attain, which is very, very little.

    The Value of Mud Chris 2005

  • ‘That is a position which very few women can attain, that is, very few single women.’

    The Belton Estate 2004

  • And for This, the sternest and the uttermost combat is set before the Souls; all our labour is for This, lest we be left without part in this noblest vision, which to attain is to be blessed in the blissful sight, which to fail of is to fail utterly.

    The Six Enneads. Plotinus 1952


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