The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Attain \At*tain"\ ([a^]t*t[=a]n"), v. t. [imp. & p. p.
Attained (-t[=a]nd"); p. pr. & vb. n. Attaining.] [Of.
atteinen, atteignen, atainen, OF. ateindre, ataindre, F.
atteindre, fr. L. attingere; ad + tangere to touch, reach.
See Tangent, and cf. Attinge, Attaint.]
1. To achieve or accomplish, that is, to reach by efforts; to
gain; to compass; as, to attain rest.
Is he wise who hopes to attain the end without the
2. To gain or obtain possession of; to acquire. [Obs. with a
material object.] --Chaucer.
3. To get at the knowledge of; to ascertain. [Obs.]
Not well attaining his meaning. --Fuller.
4. To reach or come to, by progression or motion; to arrive
at. "Canaan he now attains." --Milton.
5. To overtake. [Obs.] --Bacon.
6. To reach in excellence or degree; to equal.
Syn: To Attain, Obtain, Procure.
Usage: Attain always implies an effort toward an object.
Hence it is not synonymous with obtain and procure,
which do not necessarily imply such effort or motion.
We procure or obtain a thing by purchase or loan, and
we obtain by inheritance, but we do not attain it by