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

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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 Economists presume that during growth periods demand outpaces supply, except that all demand is a consequence of supply. John Tamny, Forbes, "The Ever Given Stuck In The Suez Canal Mocks A Fallacy-Riddled Economics Profession," 11 Apr. 2021 The newspaper is mentioned so that no one reading this review will presume what’s being said emanates from some kind of fringe source. John Tamny, Forbes, "Book Review: ‘Joe Biden’ By Evan Osnos," 3 Mar. 2021 Precisely the type of Black dad people presume doesn’t exist. Washington Post, "With ‘Concrete Rose,’ Angie Thomas eviscerates stereotypes about Black families," 15 Jan. 2021 Addressing the regional imbalances in America would be an enormous undertaking, and MacGillis doesn’t presume to offer prescriptions. Vauhini Vara, The Atlantic, "The One-Click Curse," 12 Feb. 2021 The Bears defense has been too inconsistent to presume the unit is going to be able to stop Rodgers this time. Dan Wiederer,, "Week 17 predictions: Can the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers and punch their ticket to the playoffs?," 1 Jan. 2021 Many federal workers — and others in the private sector — must presume that unclassified networks are teeming with spies. Arkansas Online, "Pompeo says Russia 'pretty clearly' behind cyberattack on U.S.," 19 Dec. 2020 Many federal workers — and others in the private sector — must presume that unclassified networks are teeming with spies. Frank Bajak,, "Secretary of state says Russia ‘pretty clearly’ behind major cyberattack on US government, industry; Trump silent," 19 Dec. 2020 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

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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Time Traveler for presume

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for presume

Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Presume.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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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
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.


transitive verb
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

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Comments on presume

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