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

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Other Words from covenant


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for covenant

Synonyms: Noun

accord, alliance, compact, convention, pact, treaty

Synonyms: Verb

agree, bargain, contract

Antonyms: Verb


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Last week the 18-member Human Rights Committee in Geneva ruled unanimously that, in the case of Mr. Arias, Colombia has failed to uphold its obligations under the covenant. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "A Cynical Trade With Colombia," 18 Nov. 2018 In particular, SoundCloud says the broad language regarding the covenant not to sue has been removed. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "SoundCloud pulls controversial contract terms after Verge report," 29 Oct. 2018 The 2015 suit asked for $200 million for constructive termination, breach of contract, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Sean Elder, Town & Country, "The War of The Grosses: Inside the Bitter Divorce Battle of the Laguna Beach "Bond King"," 22 Oct. 2018 Those plans will include ideas on how best to protect that property, whether through acquisition, or a restricted covenant on the deed or a conservation easement, for example. Emily Hopkins, Indianapolis Star, "A lack of trees might hurt Indianapolis’ growth. Here’s why.," 4 June 2018 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

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.

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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

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Learn More about covenant

Statistics for covenant

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for covenant

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

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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

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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

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Comments on covenant

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