\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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Not building out a kitchen and other amenities also keeps the costs down for the DIY enthusiasts out there. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Affordable pop-top transforms your van into a camper for $7K," 5 Dec. 2018 Unlike her predecessor, Lorelai Gilmore, Midge isn’t cathected to her spawn, who are kept to the margins of the show. Marjorie Ingall, Town & Country, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," 4 Dec. 2018 In 2017, more people took DNA tests than in all the previous years combined, according to the MIT Technology Review, and that number keeps climbing. Dieter Holger, PCWorld, "DNA testing for ancestry is more detailed for white people. Here’s why, and how it's changing," 4 Dec. 2018 Details about Turner and Jonas' nuptials have been kept under wraps since their engagement, while Priyanka and Nick revealed details of their wedding location, ceremonies, fashion, and more on their terms via Instagram and select exclusive features. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sophie Turner & Joe Jonas' Wedding Date and Location Has Just Been Revealed," 3 Dec. 2018 Natalia Vodianova took her tots for an invigorating countryside ride, her blonde wisps peeking out from beneath a roseate headscarf, while elsewhere, Fernanda Ly kept her pale pink hair sleek with an assemblage of bobby pins and a cool burgundy lip. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "The Best Beauty Instagrams of the Week: Kylie Jenner Has a Marilyn Moment (and More!)," 2 Dec. 2018 The two orders came 10 days after the revelation that Kramer strangely shared a number of files that had previously been kept secret in an ongoing lawsuit that dates back years. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Judge slams bikini-app maker’s lawyers in legal clash with Facebook," 1 Dec. 2018 Following news of his death at 26 in September, his memory has been kept alive by fans and celebrities alike, including his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, who recently posted a tribute to him on Thanksgiving. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, "Spotify Released Two New Mac Miller Songs Recorded a Month Before His Death," 30 Nov. 2018 Despite the couple's widespread fame, 2-year-old Dusty Rose and 9-month-old Gio Grace have been kept out of the spotlight so far. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Coach Adam Levine Caught in Rare Photo With His Wife and Two Daughters," 26 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The little ironies of world trade keep going round and round. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "U.S. Soybean Country’s Curious New Customer," 9 Nov. 2018 Best in-flight meal or airline snack?I keep airplane food very simple. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Maria Sharapova Answers 37 Questions About Travel," 27 Aug. 2018 Ever since Spain won the European Championship in 2008 by playing an elaborate game of keep-away, the teams that dominated the ball were the teams that dominated the biggest tournaments. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Biggest Takeaways From the 2018 World Cup," 16 July 2018 Charles V completed construction of the keep, which is over 170 feet tall. Nicole Defeudis,, "Visiting Paris? Put this fortified castle in your itinerary," 29 May 2018 Magazine Subscription: Truly the gift the keeps on giving, a magazine subscription will be a monthly reminder of your generosity long after the holiday months have passed. Redbook, "7 Easy Last-Minute Gift Ideas," 14 Dec. 2010 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about keep

Statistics for keep

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for keep

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!