The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Obtain \Ob*tain"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Obtained; p. pr. & vb.
n. Obtaining.] [F. obtenir, L. obtinere; ob (see Ob-) +
tenere to hold. See Tenable.]
1. To hold; to keep; to possess. [Obs.]
His mother, then, is mortal, but his Sire
He who obtains the monarchy of heaven. --Milton.
2. To get hold of by effort; to gain possession of; to
procure; to acquire, in any way.
Some pray for riches; riches they obtain. --Dryden.
By guileful fair words peace may be obtained.
It may be that I may obtain children by her. --Gen.
Syn: To attain; gain; procure; acquire; win; earn.
Usage: See Attain. -- To Obtain, Get, Gain, Earn,
Acquire. The idea of getting is common to all these
terms. We may, indeed, with only a slight change of
sense, substitute get for either of them; as, to get
or to gain a prize; to get or to obtain an employment;
to get or to earn a living; to get or to acquire a
language. To gain is to get by striving; and as this
is often a part of our good fortune, the word gain is
peculiarly applicable to whatever comes to us
fortuitously. Thus, we gain a victory, we gain a
cause, we gain an advantage, etc. To earn is to
deserve by labor or service; as, to earn good wages;
to earn a triumph. Unfortunately, one does not always
get or obtain what he has earned. To obtain implies
desire for possession, and some effort directed to the
attainment of that which is not immediately within our
reach. Whatever we thus seek and get, we obtain,
whether by our own exertions or those of others;
whether by good or bad means; whether permanently, or
only for a time. Thus, a man obtains an employment; he
obtains an answer to a letter, etc. To acquire is more
limited and specific. We acquire what comes to us
gradually in the regular exercise of our abilities,
while we obtain what comes in any way, provided we
desire it. Thus, we acquire knowledge, property,
honor, reputation, etc. What we acquire becomes, to a
great extent, permanently our own; as, to acquire a
language; to acquire habits of industry, etc.