pre·​sume | \ pri-ˈzüm How to pronounce presume (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from presume

presumedly \ pri-​ˈzü-​məd-​lē How to pronounce presume (audio) , -​ˈzümd-​lē How to pronounce presume (audio) \ 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 In 1988, the high court said judges can presume that investors all relied on any public misrepresentations when then bought shares. Greg Stohr,, "Goldman Gets High Court Review It Sought on Investor Suits," 11 Dec. 2020 But make no mistake, this is going to be a tougher game than one might presume based on the preseason perceptions of the programs. USA TODAY, "Bold predictions for Week 12 in college football," 21 Nov. 2020 Given the proud peacocks who presume to govern us, gridlock is often underrated. Star Tribune, "Oust Trump. Disappoint the left. Just right.," 7 Nov. 2020 At times, the authors seem to presume a like-minded readership, as terms like forever war and endless wars—both now in common usage—are derided with scare quotes. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "The New Language of Forever War-Making," 17 Dec. 2020 The authors do not presume that there’s some kind of deterministic reality underlying the quantum world. Quanta Magazine, "A New Theorem Maps Out the Limits of Quantum Physics," 3 Dec. 2020 That Bubba would presume to speak for the women in his life ... John Brummett, Arkansas Online, "OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Bubba breaks it down," 15 Nov. 2020 The nightmare scenarios necessarily presume that not only might a candidate reject the election result, but that an entire party will do so at every level within the system. Daniel Larsen, Star Tribune, "What happens if neither Trump nor Biden concedes?," 2 Nov. 2020 Those plans should not presume that everyone who can have the vaccine will be willing to receive it. Shadim Hussain, Wired, "We Need 'Horizontal' Trust to Overcome Vaccine Skepticism," 21 Nov. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about presume

Time Traveler for presume

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for presume

Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Presume.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for presume


How to pronounce presume (audio)

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


pre·​sume | \ pri-ˈzüm How to pronounce presume (audio) \
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.
pre·​sume | \ pri-ˈzüm How to pronounce presume (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on presume

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
True or False

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


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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