verb (used with object)

  1. to come into possession of; get, acquire, or procure, as through an effort or by a request: to obtain permission; to obtain a better income.
  2. Obsolete. to attain or reach.

verb (used without object)

  1. to be prevalent, customary, or in vogue; prevail: the morals that obtained in Rome.
  2. Archaic. to succeed.


  1. not able to be obtained


  1. (tr) to gain possession of; acquire; get
  2. (intr) to be customary, valid, or accepteda new law obtains in this case
  3. (tr) archaic to arrive at
  4. (intr) archaic to win a victory; succeed

adj.1775, from un- (1) “not” + obtainable. Related: Unobtainability. v.early 15c., from Middle French obtenir “acquire, obtain” (14c.), from Latin obtinere “hold, hold fast, take hold of, get possession of, acquire,” from ob “to” (though perhaps intensive in this case; see ob-) + tenere “to hold” (see tenet). Related: Obtained; obtaining.

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