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

Human law becomes indistinguishable from God’s presumed will. Jonathan L. Walton, Time, "Why Authoritarians Love to Quote This Bible Passage," 22 June 2018 By the time President James Monroe paid a visit in 1819, all that remained was the outline of an earthen fort, presumed to have been built by the 1585 all-male colony. Andrew Lawler, Science | AAAS, "Archaeologists start a new hunt for the fabled Lost Colony of the New World," 6 June 2018 Since Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, insiders in Washington legal circles and on Capitol Hill have presumed that Brett Kavanaugh is the front-runner to succeed him. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump’s confusion about Bush’s slogan illustrates his narrow view of the presidency," 9 July 2018 On September 11 nearly 17 years ago, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers stormed the cockpit to prevent terrorists from reaching their target, presumed to be the United States Capitol. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian, "Building the Flight 93 Memorial’s Massive Chime Tower," 5 July 2018 Everybody had presumed that fish moved from lake to lake in lake chains, but nobody had proved it. Anna Groves, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin’s Musky Whisperer spills his secret: Thinking like a scientist," 3 July 2018 Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. Bill Mears, Fox News, "Justice Kennedy's key Supreme Court opinions," 27 June 2018 Most presume the committee will hold a hearing, after which any articles of impeachment would move through the process like any other piece of legislation. Jason Hancock, Allison Kite And Tessa Weinberg, kansascity, "GOP lawmakers mark victories in 2018 session despite cloud cast by Greitens’ scandals | The Kansas City Star," 18 May 2018 This is all presuming Google will work out any performance hiccups the app may be having at launch on iOS. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The revamped Google News app is now available on iPhones and iPads," 16 May 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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Phrases Related to presume

presume on/upon

presumed dead

Statistics for presume

Last Updated

19 Sep 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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