pre·​sume | \pri-ˈzüm \
presumed; presuming

Definition of presume 

transitive verb

1 : to undertake without leave or clear justification : dare

2 : to expect or assume especially with confidence

3 : to suppose to be true without proof presumed innocent until proved guilty

4 : to take for granted : imply

intransitive verb

1 : to act or proceed presumptuously or on a presumption

2 : to go beyond what is right or proper

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Other Words from presume

presumedly \ pri-​ˈzü-​məd-​lē , -​ˈzümd-​lē \ adverb
presumer noun

The Difference Between Assume and Presume

Assume and presume both mean "to take something for granted" or "to take something as true," but the words differ in the degree of confidence the person assuming or presuming has. Presume is used when someone is making an informed guess based on reasonable evidence. Assume is used when the guess is based on little or no evidence.

Presume functions a little differently in the legal catchphrase "presumed innocent until proven guilty." That sense of presume is separately defined as "to suppose to be true without proof." It is based on the fact that legal systems grant a defendant the presumption of innocence, thereby placing the burden of proof on the prosecution.

Examples of presume in a Sentence

“Is she still at work?” “I presume so, since she's not home.” The court must presume innocence until there is proof of guilt.

Recent Examples on the Web

Don’t presume athletes aren’t aware of the bigger picture. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty: Stick to sports? No, we need more athletes like Oscar Robertson.," 26 June 2018 People around here presume it was put there as a joke and no one ever bothered to take it down. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: NASA's Crazy, Kooky, Legendary Research Facility," 3 Nov. 2016 Cholera outbreaks occur in South Asia every single year, and it was presumed that UN soldiers had unwittingly carried the pathogen with them to Haiti. Longreads, "Where Have You Hidden the Cholera?," 5 Apr. 2018 It was presumed the Boilermakers would take their own step back when reigning conference player of the year Caleb Swanigan left for the NBA last spring. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Battling performance vs. Purdue shows Hoosiers how far they still have to go," 28 Jan. 2018 Indictments only represent one side in a criminal case and the defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky coal mine officials charged with cheating on key safety tests," 11 July 2018 Investigators provided an update on the disappearance of Joleen Cummings on Monday, announcing the FBI had joined the search for the woman who went missing in May and is presumed dead. Chris Harris,, "Police Search Landfill for Missing Florida Hairdresser — and Coworker Seen Discarding Trash Bag Is Suspect," 10 July 2018 The Japanese government says at least 100 people have died or are presumed dead from the heavy rains, floods and mudslides that have struck western Japan. Fox News, "Japan says death toll from floods climbs to 100," 10 July 2018 These are a sampling of Boynton Beach residents arrested and booked into the county jail; they have not been convicted of the charges listed and are presumed innocent. Judith Zizzo,, "Child pornography, illegal firearms among recent Boynton arrests," 3 July 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for presume

Middle English, from Late Latin & Anglo-French; Anglo-French presumer, from Late Latin praesumere to dare, from Latin, to anticipate, assume, from prae- + sumere to take — more at consume

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Statistics for presume

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for presume

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

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More Definitions for presume



English Language Learners Definition of presume

: to think that (something) is true without knowing that it is true

: to accept legally or officially that something is true until it is proved not true

: to do (something) that you do not have the right or permission to do


pre·​sume | \pri-ˈzüm \
presumed; presuming

Kids Definition of presume

1 : to undertake without permission or good reason : dare They … did not presume to talk to their masters as if they were their equals.— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

2 : to suppose to be true without proof A person is presumed innocent until proved guilty.


transitive verb
pre·​sume | \pri-ˈzüm \
presumed; presuming

Legal Definition of presume 

: to suppose to be true without proof or before inquiry : accept as a presumption must presume the defendant is innocent

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Comments on presume

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