verb (used with object)

  1. to reach, achieve, or accomplish; gain; obtain: to attain one’s goals.
  2. to come to or arrive at, especially after some labor or tedium; reach: to attain the age of 96; to attain the mountain peak.

verb (used without object)

  1. to arrive at or succeed in reaching or obtaining something (usually followed by to or unto): to attain to knowledge.
  2. to reach in the course of development or growth: These trees attain to remarkable height.


  1. (tr) to achieve or accomplish (a task, goal, aim, etc)
  2. (tr) to reach or arrive at in space or timeto attain old age
  3. (intr often foll by to) to arrive (at) with effort or exertionto attain to glory

c.1300, “to succeed in reaching,” from stem of Old French ataindre (11c., Modern French atteindre) “to come up to, reach, attain, endeavor, strive,” from Vulgar Latin *adtangere, from Latin attingere “to touch, to arrive at,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + tangere “to touch” (see tangent). Latin attingere had a wide range of meanings, including “to attack, to strike, to appropriate, to manage,” all somehow suggested by the literal sense “to touch.” Related: Attained; attaining.

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