cov·​e·​nant | \ˈkəv-nənt, ˈkə-və-\

Definition of covenant 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement : compact … international law, which depends upon the sanctity of covenants between rulers.— George H. Sabine

2a : a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action the deed conveying the land contained restrictive covenants

b : the common-law action to recover damages for breach of such a contract


cov·​e·​nant | \ˈkəv-nənt, -ˌnant, ˈkə-və-\
covenanted; covenanting; covenants

Definition of covenant (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to promise by a covenant : pledge

intransitive verb

: to enter into a covenant : contract

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from covenant


covenantal \ ˌkə-​və-​ˈnan-​tᵊl \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for covenant

Synonyms: Noun

accord, agreement, bargain, compact, contract, convention, deal, disposition, pact, settlement, understanding

Synonyms: Verb

agree, bargain, contract

Antonyms: Verb


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of covenant in a Sentence


an international covenant on human rights The restrictive covenants of the building development prohibit the construction of buildings over 30 feet tall.


a traditional rule held that a husband could not enter into a covenant with his wife, because that was the equivalent of covenanting with himself the home buyers had to covenant that they would restore and keep the house for at least 10 years in exchange for a low mortgage rate
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

HOAs are neighborhoods which have been given via covenants simple tools to enable shared living. Kelly G. Richardson,, "HOA Homefront: Bill pending in Sacramento would dramatically affect elections and neighborhood status," 28 Apr. 2018 If equity falls below roughly $190 million, the company is in breach of its bond covenants. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, "Norwegian Air’s Disruptive Days Look Numbered," 26 Apr. 2018 In proposing the fund, Scott, a candidate for lieutenant governor on a ticket with lawyer Jim Shea, spoke of the city’s history of racist zoning laws and restrictive housing covenants. Luke Broadwater,, "Baltimore City Council backs public financing of campaigns," 25 June 2018 The Texas Supreme Court overruled the lower courts in Friday’s opinion, determining that Tarr had not violated Timberwood Park’s restrictive covenants. Joshua Fechter, San Antonio Express-News, "Texas Supreme Court rules in favor of San Antonio-area homeowner in short-term rental case," 25 May 2018 Diamond includes the standard story of restrictive covenants, blockbusting, freeway and public housing construction and other exclusionary techniques. Aaron M. Renn, New York Times, "Four Books Explore Various Aspects of Cities Past and Present," 20 Apr. 2018 Caves Valley signed a covenant with the community in January agreeing not to put a gas station on the site. Libby Solomon,, "Towson residents question plans for Towson Station, call for 'inspired commerce'," 29 June 2018 In a complaint filed this month, Pittenger and his wife, Suzanne, allege that Lebda violated design guidelines and covenants in the building of a new home in the upscale Quail Hollow subdivision in South Charlotte. Rick Rothacker, charlotteobserver, "Congressman Pittenger's latest opponent is his millionaire CEO neighbor," 14 June 2018 Boys Volleyball Cathedral def covenant christian 25-14 25-10 25-15. Indystar Sports, Indianapolis Star, "High School Results, May 12," 12 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

USA TODAY NETWORK LOS ANGELES — Alien: Covenant edged out Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in a weekend space battle at the box office. Sandy Cohen, USA TODAY, "'Alien: Covenant' edges out 'Guardians 2' at weekend box office with $36M," 21 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'covenant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of covenant


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for covenant


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from present participle of covenir to be fitting, from Latin convenire


see covenant entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about covenant

Statistics for covenant

Last Updated

6 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for covenant

The first known use of covenant was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for covenant



Financial Definition of covenant

What It Is

A covenant is a promise a company makes, usually in return for a loan or bond issue.

How It Works

Covenants are most common in lending agreements and bond indentures. They can be financial or operational in nature.

Operational covenants often require borrowers to maintain their physical assets to certain standards, meet minimum disclosure requirements, engage only in permissible business lines, or maintain a certain level of insurance.

Financial covenants are frequently ratios that the borrower is required to stay above or below (a 2:1 debt-to-equity ratio or interest coverage ratio, for example), but there are usually also restrictions on debt levels and minimum working capital requirements. Financial covenants often limit the borrower's purchase of new assets, changes in control, the use of the borrowed funds, and the payment of dividends (so that shareholders cannot vote to pay themselves huge dividends, leaving nothing for the creditors). Some may also limit compensation packages for officers.

The lending agreement in which the covenant appears will also provide detailed formulas to be used to calculate the ratios and limits. It is important to note that in many cases these formulas do not conform to generally accepted accounting principals (GAAP). For example, the covenant may include leases in the debt calculation, or it may consider capital leases as an expense. As a result, it is very important that borrowers scrutinize covenants before borrowing.

Violating a covenant can trigger a technical default. This means that although the issuer is making interest and principal payments on time, it is not operating within the agreed-upon guidelines and is thus increasing the risk of default in the eyes of the lender or bondholders. Often borrowers have a certain amount of time to remedy the technical default, but it often lowers the borrower's credit rating and stock price.

Why It Matters

Lenders attach covenants to bond issues and loans as a way to force the borrower to operate in a financially prudent manner that ensures it will repay the debt. Issuers, on the other hand, usually negotiate the most flexible covenants they can so they have the freedom to make decisions and take risks that might ultimately benefit the shareholders.  In either case, covenants act as a safety mechanism that allows both parties to achieve its goals.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of covenant

: a formal and serious agreement or promise

law : a formal written agreement between two or more people, businesses, countries, etc.


cov·​e·​nant | \ˈkə-və-nənt \

Kids Definition of covenant

: a formal or serious agreement or promise the covenant of marriage

Keep scrolling for more


cov·​e·​nant | \ˈkə-və-nənt \

Legal Definition of covenant 

1 : an official agreement or compact an international covenant on human rights

2a : a contract in its entirety or a promise within a contract for the performance or nonperformance of a particular act a covenant not to sue specifically : a promise relating to the transfer, possession, or ownership of real property — see also covenant not to compete, restrictive covenant

b : a warranty in a deed assuring the grantee especially against defects in title a covenant for quiet enjoyment — see also run

3 : a common-law action to recover damages for breach of a contract under seal — compare assumpsit, debt

Other Words from covenant

covenant verb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on covenant

What made you want to look up covenant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!