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

  • transitive v. To maintain possession of. See Synonyms at keep.
  • transitive v. To keep or hold in a particular place, condition, or position.
  • transitive v. To keep in mind; remember.
  • transitive v. To hire (an attorney, for example) by the payment of a fee.
  • transitive v. To keep in one's service or pay.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To keep in possession or use.
  • v. To keep in one's pay or service.
  • v. To employ by paying a retainer.
  • v. To hold secure.
  • v. To belong; to pertain.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To belong; to pertain.
  • intransitive v. To keep; to continue; to remain.
  • transitive v. To continue to hold; to keep in possession; not to lose, part with, or dismiss; to restrain from departure, escape, or the like.
  • transitive v. To keep in pay; to employ by a preliminary fee paid; to hire; to engage.
  • transitive v. To restrain; to prevent.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To hold back; restrain; hinder from action, departure, or escape; keep back; detain.
  • To hold or keep in possession; reserve as one's own.
  • To continue in the use or practice of; preserve; keep up; keep from dying out: as, to retain a custom; to retain an appearance of youth.
  • To keep in mind; preserve a knowledge or idea of; remember.
  • To keep in pay; hire; take into service; especially, to engage by the payment of a preliminary fee: as, to retain counsel.
  • To entertain.
  • =Syn. 2–4. Reserve, Preserve, etc. See keep.
  • To keep on: continue.
  • To pertain; belong; be a dependent or retainer.

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

  • v. keep in one's mind
  • v. hold back within
  • v. secure and keep for possible future use or application
  • v. allow to remain in a place or position or maintain a property or feature


Middle English retainen, from Old French retenir, from Latin retinēre : re-, re- + tenēre, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French retenir, from Vulgar Latin *retinō, retinīre, from Latin retinō, retinere, from Latin re- + teneō, tenere ("to hold") (Wiktionary)



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