prom·​ise | \ˈprä-məs \

Definition of promise 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified

b : a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act

2 : reason to expect something little promise of relief especially : ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence shows considerable promise

3 : something that is promised


promised; promising

Definition of promise (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to pledge to do, bring about, or provide promise aid

2 archaic : warrant, assure

3 chiefly dialectal : betroth

4 : to suggest beforehand : give promise of dark clouds promise rain

intransitive verb

1 : to make a promise

2 : to give ground for expectation : be imminent

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Other Words from promise


promisee \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsē \ noun
promisor \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsȯr \ or less commonly promiser \ ˈprä-​mə-​sər \ noun

Synonyms for promise

Synonyms: Noun

oath, pledge, troth, vow, word

Synonyms: Verb

augur, bode, forebode (also forbode)

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Examples of promise in a Sentence


She gave me her promise. She never made a promise that she didn't intend to keep. There is little promise of relief in the forecast. They were attracted by the promise of success. a sunny morning that gives every promise of a fine day There is a promise of better days ahead.


Promise me that you won't tell anyone. I can't promise you that I'll be able to go, but I'll do my best. The governor promised that the prisoners would receive a fair trial. She promised to announce the results tomorrow. International organizations have promised aid. I promise to be careful. You always promise, but you never do what you say you will. “I won't tell anyone.” “Promise?” “Yes, I promise.” Those gray skies promise rain.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Chinese Communist Party continues to hold the families of political exiles and immigrants hostage, securing their silence with the implied — or direct — promise of harm. Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, "Poet Liu Xia escaped China, but will Beijing ever set her free?," 13 July 2018 The Miele Dialog oven is a full oven, not a countertop oven, that also holds the promise of precisely controlling the cooking process, through electromagnetic waves that are emitted at specific frequencies. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "Brava Hopes to Heat Up the 'Smart Kitchen' With a $995 Oven," 10 July 2018 Perhaps the most obvious example is the promises of Ronald Reagan to get rid of the Department of Education, which has become a common talking point in Republican presidential primaries but hasn’t amounted to much else. Julia Azari, Vox, "How “abolish ICE” illustrates the importance of party politics," 2 July 2018 The American government in Anchorage today received promises of economic aid from India and China. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Yep, That's Oprah in The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11," 27 June 2018 From the seed of hope, a flower of promise had begun to bloom., "Pride and Passion: Croatia's Unrelenting Fighting Spirit Continues to Carry National Hope," 12 July 2018 However, Serena’s serious tone is not matched by her husband, Fred, who dismisses her with a condescending promise to discuss the matter., "The Handmaid's Tale Recap Season 2, Episode 13: The Martha Express," 11 July 2018 It was revealed in the optimistic charm of her office surrounded by the faces of heartbreak looking down upon a promise of redemption. Steve West,, "A rally for MAMA | Opinion," 9 July 2018 The president shows no sign of having the capacity to turn a vague promise into the nuts and bolts of policy. The Economist, "The special relationship once enriched Britain’s politics. No longer," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The researchers eventually found one Sampson declined to name that promised to allow users to generate free in-game currency called V-Bucks. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Rash of Fortnite cheaters infected by malware that breaks HTTPS encryption," 3 July 2018 Wei and Lina were promised to each other as children by their respective fathers, but Lina and Qiang chose each other as teenagers. Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor, "'What We Were Promised' depicts post-Mao China in a deft debut novel set in Shanghai," 13 July 2018 Exactly one year later, Richmond, as promised, asked again. George Stoia, Detroit Free Press, "Late Detroit Mackenzie coach Elbert Richmond lived life to fullest," 12 July 2018 We were promised that when Samira Wiley was cast as Moira, June's best friend., "The Handmaid's Tale Still Has A White Female Privilege Problem," 11 July 2018 As promised, the 22-piece collection speaks to J.Crew's ethos for stylish dressing. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "​Shop J.Crew​ x Universal Standard​'s New Size-Inclusive Fashion Line Right Now," 10 July 2018 The dog splash park, farm park and other recreational amenities promised to Broward voters in a 2000 bond referendum are proving to be a challenge to finish. Larry Barszewski,, "Several parks promised in 2000 proving a challenge to finish," 6 July 2018 Les Bleus will now face Brazil or Belgium in what promises to be a grand slam semi final., "Uruguay 0-2 France: Les Bleus Cruise into Semi Finals After Goalkeeping Nightmare Crushes La Celeste," 6 July 2018 Amazon’s second headquarters would bring 50,000 promised jobs to the metro. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "Atlanta a favorite among Amazon finalist cities, tech survey finds," 5 July 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for promise


Middle English promis, from Latin promissum, from neuter of promissus, past participle of promittere to send forth, promise, from pro- forth + mittere to send

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Statistics for promise

Last Updated

5 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for promise

The first known use of promise was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for promise



English Language Learners Definition of promise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future

: an indication of future success or improvement

: a reason to expect that something will happen in the future



English Language Learners Definition of promise (Entry 2 of 2)

: to tell someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future

: to make (something) seem likely : to show signs of (something that is likely or expected to happen)


prom·​ise | \ˈprä-məs \

Kids Definition of promise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a statement by a person that he or she will do or not do something I made a promise to pay within a month.

2 : a cause or ground for hope These plans give promise of success.


promised; promising

Kids Definition of promise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to state that something will or will not be done I promise to clean my room this afternoon.

2 : to give reason to expect Dark clouds promise rain.



Legal Definition of promise 

: a declaration or manifestation especially in a contract of an intention to act or refrain from acting in a specified way that gives the party to whom it is made a right to expect its fulfillment

aleatory promise

: a promise (as to compensate an insured individual for future loss) whose fulfillment is dependent on a fortuitous or uncertain event

collateral promise

: a promise usually to pay the debt of another that is ancillary to an original promise, is not made for the benefit of the party making it, and must be in writing to be enforceable

false promise

: a promise that is made with no intention of carrying it out and especially with intent to deceive or defraud

gratuitous promise

: a promise that is made without consideration and is usually unenforceable

called also naked promise

— compare nudum pactum

Note: A gratuitous promise may be enforceable under promissory estoppel.

illusory promise

: a purported promise that does not actually bind the party making it to a particular performance an illusory promise depending solely on the will of the supposed promisor

implied promise

: a promise that is considered to exist despite the lack of an agreement or express terms to that effect and the breach of which may be recognized as a cause of action claimed a breach of an implied promise that he would not be terminated at will — see also promise implied in fact and promise implied in law in this entry

naked promise

: gratuitous promise in this entry

original promise

: a promise (as in a suretyship) usually to pay the debt of another that is made primarily for the benefit of the party making it and need not be in writing to be enforceable — compare collateral promise in this entry, main purpose rule

promise implied in fact

: an implied promise that exists by inference from specific facts, circumstances, or acts of the parties

promise implied in law

: an implied promise that exists on the basis of a legally enforceable duty and not on the basis of words or conduct which are promissory in form or support an inference of a promise a promise implied in law that one will be compensated for services rendered and accepted

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Comments on promise

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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