verb \ˈkēp\

Definition of keep


play \ˈkept\;


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to retain in one's possession or power kept the money we foundb :  to refrain from granting, giving, or allowing kept the news backc :  to have in control keep your temper

  3. 2 :  to take notice of by appropriate conduct :  fulfill: such asa :  to be faithful to keep a promiseb :  to act fittingly in relation to keep the Sabbathc :  to conform to in habits or conduct keep late hoursd :  to stay in accord with (a beat) keep time

  4. 3 :  preserve, maintain: such asa :  to watch over and defend keep us from harmb (1) :  to take care of :  tend keep a garden (2) :  support (3) :  to maintain in a good, fitting, or orderly condition —usually used with upc :  to continue to maintain keep watchd (1) :  to cause to remain in a given place, situation, or condition keep him waiting (2) :  to preserve (food) in an unspoiled conditione (1) :  to have or maintain in an established position or relationship keep a mistress —often used with on kept the cook on (2) :  to lodge or feed for pay keep boardersf (1) :  to maintain a record in keep a diary (2) :  to enter in a book keep recordsg :  to have customarily in stock for sale

  5. 4a :  to restrain from departure or removal :  detain keep children after schoolb :  hold back, restrain keep them from going kept him back with difficultyc :  save, reserve keep some for later kept some out for a friendd :  to refrain from revealing keep a secret

  6. 5 :  to confine oneself to keep my room

  7. 6a :  to stay or continue in keep the path keep your seatb :  to stay or remain on or in usually against opposition :  hold kept her ground

  8. 7 :  conduct, manage keep a tearoom

  9. intransitive verb
  10. 1a :  to maintain a course, direction, or progress keep to the rightb :  to continue usually without interruption keep talking keep quiet keep on smilingc :  to persist in a practice kept bothering them kept on smoking in spite of warnings

  11. 2 :  stay, remain keep out of the way keep off the grass: such asa :  to stay even —usually used with up keep up with the Jonesesb :  to remain in good condition meat will keep in the freezerc :  to remain secret the secret would keepd :  to call for no immediate action the matter will keep until morning

  12. 3 :  abstain, refrain can't keep from talking

  13. 4 :  to be in session school will keep through the winter — W. M. Thayer

  14. 5 of a quarterback :  to retain possession of a football especially after faking a handoff

  15. 6 chiefly British :  live, lodge

keep an eye on

  1. :  watch

keep at

  1. :  to persist in doing or concerning oneself with

keep company

  1. :  to go together as frequent companions or in courtship

keep house

  1. :  to manage a household

keep one's distance


keep at a distance

  1. :  to stay aloof :  maintain a reserved attitude

keep one's eyes open


keep one's eyes peeled

  1. :  to be on the alert :  be watchful

keep one's hand in

  1. :  to keep in practice

keep one's head down

  1. :  to avoid attracting notice

keep one's nose clean

  1. :  to avoid trouble especially through good behavior

keep pace

  1. :  to stay even; also :  keep up 1

keep step

  1. :  to keep in step

keep to

  1. 1a :  to stay inb :  to limit oneself to

  2. 2 :  to abide by

keep to oneself

  1. 1 :  to keep secret kept the facts to myself

  2. 2 :  to remain solitary or apart from other people

Examples of keep in a Sentence

  1. She's going to keep the money she found.

  2. I can't decide whether to sell my old car or keep it for another year.

  3. While the company laid off some employees, others had hopes of keeping their jobs.

  4. The fare is $4. Here's $5. Keep the change.

  5. I asked them to keep quiet.

  6. The program teaches kids how to keep safe near water.

  7. I tried to keep the children quiet during the ceremony.

  8. The local newspaper keeps people informed about what's happening in town.

  9. The article offers tips on how to keep kids safe near water.

  10. The movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Origin and Etymology of keep

Middle English kepen, from Old English cēpan; perhaps akin to Old High German chapfēn to look

Synonym Discussion of keep

keep, observe, celebrate, commemorate mean to notice or honor a day, occasion, or deed. keep stresses the idea of not neglecting or violating. kept the Sabbath by refraining from work observe suggests marking the occasion by ceremonious performance. not all holidays are observed nationally celebrate suggests acknowledging an occasion by festivity. traditionally celebrates Thanksgiving with a huge dinner commemorate suggests that an occasion is marked by observances that remind one of the origin and significance of the event. commemorate Memorial Day with the laying of wreaths

keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control. keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control. keep this while I'm gone retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss. managed to retain their dignity even in poverty detain suggests a delay in letting go. detained them for questioning withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go. withheld information from the authorities reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use. reserve some of your energy for the last mile




Definition of keep

  1. 1 :  the means or provisions by which one is kept earned his keep

  2. 2 :  one that keeps or protects: such asa :  fortress, castle; specifically :  the strongest and securest part of a medieval castleb :  one whose job is to keep or tendc :  prison, jail

  3. 3 :  keeper 5

  4. 4a :  maintenanceb archaic :  custody, charge

for keeps

  1. 1a :  with the provision that one keep what one has won played marbles for keepsb :  with deadly seriousness

  2. 2 :  for an indefinitely long time :  permanently

  3. 3 :  with the result of ending the matter

Examples of keep in a Sentence

  1. the keep of the stable is mainly left to the two equine-loving daughters

Origin and Etymology of keep

see 1keep

KEEP Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of keep for English Language Learners

  • : to continue having or holding (something) : to not return, lose, sell, give away, or throw away (something)

  • : to continue in a specified state, condition, or position

  • : to cause (someone or something) to continue in a specified state, condition, or position



Definition of keep for English Language Learners

  • : the strongest part of a castle built in the Middle Ages

KEEP Defined for Kids



verb \ˈkēp\

Definition of keep for Students




  1. 1 :  to remain or cause to remain in a given place, situation, or condition Keep off the grass. She kept us waiting.

  2. 2 :  to put in a specified place for storage Where do you keep the sugar?

  3. 3 :  protect I'll keep you from harm.

  4. 4 :  to continue doing something Snow kept falling.

  5. 5 :  to continue to have in possession or power Did you keep the money you found?

  6. 6 :  to prevent from leaving :  detain The criminal was kept in jail.

  7. 7 :  to hold back Can you keep a secret?

  8. 8 :  to be faithful to :  fulfill I kept my promise.

  9. 9 :  to act properly in relation to Remember to keep the Sabbath.

  10. 10 :  to take care of :  tend I keep a vegetable garden.

  11. 11 :  to have available for service or at someone's disposal Grandpa wants to keep a car.

  12. 12 :  to preserve a record in He began to keep a diary.

  13. 13 :  to continue in an unspoiled condition Buy food that keeps well.

  14. 14 :  1refrain They seem unable to keep from talking.

keep an eye on

  1. :  1watch 3 Please keep an eye on the baby until I get back.

keep up

  1. 1 :  to continue without interruption The rain kept up all night.

  2. 2 :  to stay even with others (as in a race)

  3. 3 :  to stay well informed about something He tries to keep up with the news.

  4. 4 :  maintain 2 They keep up the yard.

Headscratcher for keep

Have you ever been told to keep your eyes peeled, and wondered how you were supposed to peel your eyes? The “peel” in the expression refers to your eyelids. To keep your eyes peeled means to keep them open—in other words, to be watchful.




Definition of keep for Students

  1. 1 :  the strongest part of a castle in the Middle Ages

  2. 2 :  the necessities of life Their father could not earn the family's keep.

for keeps

  1. 1 :  with the understanding that a person or group may keep what is won We'll play marbles for keeps.

  2. 2 :  for a long time :  permanently He stayed angry for keeps.

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


sad or melancholy

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • istock-refers-to-this-as-a-tumble-of-strawberries-which-sounded-pretty-nice-to-us
  • Which is a synonym of garner?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!