keep

1 of 2

verb

kept ˈkept How to pronounce keep (audio) ; keeping

transitive verb

1
a
: 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)
(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
4
a
: 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
6
a
: 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

1
a
: 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

2 of 2

noun

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
3
4
b
archaic : custody, charge
Phrases
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 see also keep company with
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
keep step
: to keep in step
keep to
1
a
: 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
for keeps
1
a
: 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
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

Example Sentences

Verb 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. Noun the keep of the stable is mainly left to the two equine-loving daughters See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
It’s not easy for Peresta to keep all this equipment running in the wild. Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Dec. 2022 In schools that don't have supplies in bathrooms, teachers are often footing the bill to keep their classrooms stocked instead, Barks said. Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY, 28 Nov. 2022 The most urgent priority is finding a deal to keep the government open. Jonathan Bydlak, National Review, 28 Nov. 2022 Cunningham also said he's started calling recruits in an effort to keep Cincinnati's 2023 recruiting class intact ahead of the start of the early signing period on Dec. 21. Keith Jenkins, The Enquirer, 28 Nov. 2022 But the ball squirted loose after Johnson was hit by Hassan Ridgeway, and Dre Greenlaw recovered at the 1 to keep the Saints off the scoreboard. Josh Dubow, ajc, 28 Nov. 2022 With the lockdown, Xinjiang managed to keep COVID-19 cases down, at one point even back to single digits. Time, 28 Nov. 2022 Pair it with a FLEXVOLT battery for the ultimate boost that will keep your project moving without the need for constant recharging. Bobbi Dempsey, Popular Mechanics, 28 Nov. 2022 Le Carré’s George Smiley embodied the Cold War-era decline of the British Empire—upright and betrayed, his disposition of quiet, keep-calm-and-carry-on forbearance a proxy for Britain itself. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2022
Noun
Otto says that multiple spies spotted the princess leaving the keep, disguised as a page. Omar L. Gallaga, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2022 After getting another shot as an emergency COVID replacement player, though, the 6-6, 242-pounder had some success with the Lakers — especially against the Jazz — playing as a four and small-ball five and earning his keep on defense. Eric Walden, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Sep. 2022 To earn its keep on the menu, the Poo Driver had to be a banger. Shaina Loew-banayan, Bon Appétit, 19 Sep. 2022 The bar-keep/butcher could put on a shirt at least. DS: The craftmanship of the wood elves is top notch. Los Angeles Times, 4 Sep. 2022 To the Ukrainian soldiers, the plant was a stronghold, surrounded on three sides by water, ringed by high walls, as seemingly impregnable as a medieval keep. New York Times, 20 July 2022 Developed by High Moon Studios, this is a more fanciful island, replete with old cobblestone streets, a winery, a smuggler’s cove and a Medieval keep. Erik Kain, Forbes, 20 June 2022 For the most part, the shows and actors most deserving of awards-show attention earned their keep when J. B. Smoove and Melissa Fumero announced the nominees on July 12...with the exception of a few glaring omissions. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 13 July 2022 Our Mustang had the Mach 1 Handling package, which raised its price by $3750 but earned its keep with gloriously sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a rear spoiler with a cute Gurney kickup, and adjustable strut mounts. Elana Scherr, Car and Driver, 27 June 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 4b

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

Dictionary Entries Near keep

Cite this Entry

“Keep.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/keep. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

keep

1 of 2 verb
kept ˈkept How to pronounce keep (audio) ; keeping
1
a
: to be faithful to : fulfill
keep a promise
b
: to act properly in relation to
keep the Sabbath
2
a
: protect
keep us from harm
b
: to take care of : tend
keep a garden
3
: to continue doing something : maintain
keep silence
keep on working
keep that up and you'll get into trouble
4
: to have in one's service or at one's disposal
keep a car
5
: to preserve a record in
keep a diary
6
: to have on hand regularly for sale
keep neckties
7
: to continue to have in one's possession or power
kept the marbles I won
8
a
: to prevent from leaving : detain
keep a person in jail
was kept after school
b
: to place for storage
keeps the catsup in the refrigerator
keep my socks in a drawer
9
: to hold back
keep a secret
10
a
: to remain or cause to remain in a place, situation, or condition
keep off the grass
keep him waiting
b
: to continue in an unspoiled condition
food that keeps well
11
: refrain entry 1
keep from talking
12
: to take charge of (as a business) : manage
kept an inn

keep

2 of 2 noun
1
: the strongest part of a castle in the Middle Ages
2
: the necessities of life
earn one's keep

More from Merriam-Webster on keep

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