\ˈkēp \
kept\ˈkept \; keeping

Definition of keep 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to retain in one's possession or power kept the money we found

b : to refrain from granting, giving, or allowing kept the news back

c : to have in control keep your temper

2 : to take notice of by appropriate conduct : fulfill: such as

a : to be faithful to keep a promise

b : to act fittingly in relation to keep the Sabbath

c : to conform to in habits or conduct keep late hours

d : to stay in accord with (a beat) keep time

3 : preserve, maintain: such as

a : to watch over and defend keep us from harm

b(1) : to take care of : tend keep a garden

(2) : support

(3) : to maintain in a good, fitting, or orderly condition usually used with up

c : to continue to maintain keep watch

d(1) : to cause to remain in a given place, situation, or condition keep him waiting

(2) : to preserve (food) in an unspoiled condition

e(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 boarders

f(1) : to maintain a record in keep a diary

(2) : to enter in a book keep records

g : to have customarily in stock for sale

4a : to restrain from departure or removal : detain keep children after school

b : hold back, restrain keep them from going kept him back with difficulty

c : save, reserve keep some for later kept some out for a friend

d : to refrain from revealing keep a secret

5 : to confine oneself to keep my room

6a : to stay or continue in keep the path keep your seat

b : to stay or remain on or in usually against opposition : hold kept her ground

7 : conduct, manage keep a tearoom

intransitive verb

1a : to maintain a course, direction, or progress keep to the right

b : to continue usually without interruption keep talking keep quiet keep on smiling

c : to persist in a practice kept bothering them kept on smoking in spite of warnings

2 : stay, remain keep out of the way keep off the grass : such as

a : to stay even usually used with up keep up with the Joneses

b : to remain in good condition meat will keep in the freezer

c : to remain secret the secret would keep

d : to call for no immediate action the matter will keep until morning

3 : abstain, refrain can't keep from talking

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

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

6 chiefly British : live, lodge

keep an eye on

: watch

keep at

: to persist in doing or concerning oneself with

keep company

: to go together as frequent companions or in courtship

keep house

: to manage a household

keep one's distance or keep at a distance

: to stay aloof : maintain a reserved attitude

keep one's eyes open or keep one's eyes peeled

: to be on the alert : be watchful

keep one's hand in

: to keep in practice

keep one's head down

: to avoid attracting notice

keep one's nose clean

: to avoid trouble especially through good behavior

keep pace

: to stay even also : keep up sense 1

keep step

: to keep in step

keep to

1a : to stay in

b : to limit oneself to

2 : to abide by

keep to oneself

1 : to keep secret kept the facts to myself

2 : to remain solitary or apart from other people



Definition of keep (Entry 2 of 2)

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

2 : one that keeps or protects: such as

a : fortress, castle specifically : the strongest and securest part of a medieval castle

b : one whose job is to keep or tend

c : prison, jail

4a : maintenance

b archaic : custody, charge

for keeps

1a : with the provision that one keep what one has won played marbles for keeps

b : with deadly seriousness

2 : for an indefinitely long time : permanently

3 : with the result of ending the matter

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Synonyms & Antonyms for keep

Synonyms: Verb

bridle, check, constrain, contain, control, curb, govern, hold, inhibit, measure, pull in, regulate, rein (in), restrain, rule, tame

Antonyms: Verb


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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of keep in a Sentence


She's going to keep the money she found. I can't decide whether to sell my old car or keep it for another year. While the company laid off some employees, others had hopes of keeping their jobs. “The fare is $4.” “Here's $5. Keep the change.” I asked them to keep quiet. The program teaches kids how to keep safe near water. I tried to keep the children quiet during the ceremony. The local newspaper keeps people informed about what's happening in town. The article offers tips on how to keep kids safe near water. The movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.


the keep of the stable is mainly left to the two equine-loving daughters
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Here are a few other story lines to keep an eye on as the awards show approaches. John Koblin, New York Times, "Emmy Nominations 2018: ‘Game of Thrones’ and Netflix Lead the Way," 13 July 2018 If left unhindered, MDSCs promote tumor growth by shutting down other immune cells that keep tumors in check. Esther Landhuis, Scientific American, "Could Brain Stimulation Slow Cancer?," 13 July 2018 Water needs to be kept in the shade and animals need appropriate shade to stay safe from the extreme heat. Cathy M. Rosenthal, San Antonio Express-News, "When to walk your dog to avoid the heat," 13 July 2018 The artist definitely tends to keep the drawings in the current HCC exhibit at the level of allusive representation and pattern-as-structure. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "Connecting the dots in Goldberg's variations," 13 July 2018 This beige-colored house stands in stark contrast to some of the tent cities and cages where Central American children are kept in Texas. Jean Guerrero, Glamour, "We've Seen Pictures of Undocumented Boys in Government Facilities. Where Are the Girls?," 13 July 2018 Fantasy Rookie of the Year: D.J. Chark, WR Chark will likely go un-drafted, but keep an eye on him. Eddie Brown,, "Fantasy Football 2018: Jacksonville Jaguars Preview," 12 July 2018 The 2015 Rookie of the Year is one to keep an eye on. Daniel Rapaport,, "FORE Questions: Breaking Down the New PGA Tour Schedule," 12 July 2018 According to the people who keep an eye on Grande's every move (her stans), the 25-year-old singer has a brand-new tattoo. Samantha Sasso,, "Ariana Grande Stans Think Her New Tattoo Is Dedicated To Her Fiancé," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Major truckmakers like Freightliner and Volvo are rolling out technologies such as lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control that are already found in premium passenger vehicles. Kirsten Korosec, Fortune, "America's Trucker Shortage Is Hitting Home," 27 June 2018 Benzema scored on Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius after the keep got the ball and rolled it out. Charlotte Carroll,, "Watch: Karim Benzema Scores Opening Goal Against Liverpool in Champions League Final," 26 May 2018 So for those keep track at home, Kellyn has bought two very blatant lies two weeks in a row. Demetrio Teniente, Houston Chronicle, "Survivor: Ghost Island week 11 power rankings," 9 May 2018 After that, the 21-year-old battled his way back to make 21 appearances for Schalke last season, while earning his keep on the Swiss national team. Juan Pimiento,, "From Tolisso to Lozano, players to watch in Russia 2018," 13 June 2018 Hypo didn’t earn his keep, however, and Fellig moved on to news photography. Sarah Boxer, New York Times, "Weegee the Famous: The Master of Down-and-Dirty Street Photography," 1 June 2018 The Ducks are approaching the World Cup with a keep-it-simple strategy similar to their U.S. championship preparation. Andrew Greif,, "Oregon Ducks team preparing to represent U.S. in 3-on-3 World Cup," 31 May 2018 If the appeal were allowed to proceed, the case would likely go back to the Supreme Court — for keeps, this time. Tyler Estep, ajc, "Gwinnett judge wants ‘racist pig’ lawsuit file back from Supreme Court," 28 Apr. 2018 In short, the best oil for frying keeps things manageable. Alex Delany, Bon Appetit, "This Is the Best Oil for Frying," 28 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'keep.' 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 keep


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


1579, in the meaning defined at sense 4b

History and Etymology for keep


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


see keep entry 1

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Statistics for keep

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for keep

The first known use of keep was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for keep



English Language Learners Definition of keep

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of keep (Entry 2 of 2)

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


\ˈkēp \
kept\ˈkept \; keeping

Kids Definition of keep

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

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

3 : protect I'll keep you from harm.

4 : to continue doing something Snow kept falling.

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

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

7 : to hold back Can you keep a secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

keep an eye on

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

keep up

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

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

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

4 : maintain sense 2 They keep up the yard.



Kids Definition of keep (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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

for keeps

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on keep

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for keep

Spanish Central: Translation of keep

Nglish: Translation of keep for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of keep for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about keep

Comments on keep

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


lying above or upon

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