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prom·​ise ˈprä-məs How to pronounce promise (audio)
: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified
: 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
: reason to expect something
little promise of relief
especially : ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence
shows considerable promise
: something that is promised


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promised; promising

transitive verb

: to pledge to do, bring about, or provide
promise aid
archaic : warrant, assure
chiefly dialectal : betroth
: to suggest beforehand : give promise of
dark clouds promise rain

intransitive verb

: to make a promise
: to give ground for expectation : be imminent
promisee noun
promisor noun
or less commonly promiser

Examples of promise in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb 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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
About the band: Speaking of the Texas marching band, Alabama stuck to the promise to return the favor when UT banished Tide fans to the upper deck last year in Austin. Michael Casagrande |, al, 10 Sep. 2023 Heredia, 29, started an accountant job at a small Tampa, Florida firm, with the promise that her $60,000 base salary would rise to $100,000 after one year. Byirina Ivanova, Fortune, 9 Sep. 2023 The coaching staff believed multiple potential players were lured to other programs by larger NIL promises in the lead-up to national signing day. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 8 Sep. 2023 But even the high-profile promises to boost ambitions at a global climate summit in Scotland in 2021, a U.N. report late last year found, have shown few signs of becoming reality. Brady Dennis, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Sep. 2023 There are also upgrades coming to the Xbox app, including an improved user experience and the promise of frequent updates. Jay Peters, The Verge, 8 Sep. 2023 Both for its promise and its missteps, then, The Changeling can be a frustrating show to watch. Phillip MacIak, The New Republic, 7 Sep. 2023 Next Goal Wins Based on Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s documentary of the same name, Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins promises to be a rousing dramatization of the American Samoa national football team’s attempts to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Sep. 2023 The parent notification policy illegally discriminates against students based on gender and violates the California Constitution’s promise of equal rights and a right to privacy, according to the lawsuit. Mackenzie Mays, Los Angeles Times, 28 Aug. 2023
President Joe Biden promised U.S. assistance, although most international aid crews were on hold awaiting formal requests for assistance from the Moroccan government. John Bacon, USA TODAY, 11 Sep. 2023 Summer is over but new-release season is in full bloom: The fall 2023 calendar is a bumper edition, with the likes of Mitski, Sufjan Stevens, and Animal Collective promising autumnal joy and post-summer sadness in equal measure. Madison Bloom, Pitchfork, 11 Sep. 2023 The Art Discovery Zone is a family area that promises puppet shows, storytelling, harp music, an interactive drum circle, youth performers and other performances. oregonlive, 11 Sep. 2023 Junior safety Milo Tremblay led the Cougars with a pair of interceptions, both of which came in the end zone and thwarted promising drives for the Lynx. Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2023 Many of the major museums in San Diego will be unveiling exciting new exhibitions while smaller galleries and art spaces are showcasing work from promising locals and international artists alike. Seth Combs, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Sep. 2023 Google disputes that the law requires it to work with rivals, while the states say Google promised a neutral offering. Paresh Dave, WIRED, 10 Sep. 2023 No one was promising the Truth or Dare of butt rock here. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 9 Sep. 2023 On Friday, McAfee promised the Alabama coach will get the dumbest questions he’s ever been asked with the expectation of exploring the brain of the greatest college coach of all time. Mark Heim |, al, 9 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'promise.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near promise

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
prom·​ise ˈpräm-əs How to pronounce promise (audio)
: a statement by a person that he or she will or will not do something
a promise to pay within a month
: something promised
: a cause or ground for hope
give promise of success
shows promise


2 of 2 verb
promised; promising
: to give a promise about one's own actions
I promise to clean my room this afternoon
: to give reason to expect
dark clouds promising rain
promisor noun


Middle English promisse, promis "promise," derived from Latin promissus, past participle of promittere "to send forth, promise," from pro- "forward, forth" and mittere "to send, throw" — related to message

Legal Definition


: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on promise

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