prom·​ise | \ ˈprä-məs How to pronounce promise (audio) \

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 How to pronounce promise (audio) \ noun
promisor \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsȯr How to pronounce promise (audio) \ or less commonly promiser \ ˈprä-​mə-​sər How to pronounce promise (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for promise

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But there's a promise of light at the end of the tunnel. Ivana Kottasová, CNN, "What you need to know about coronavirus on Tuesday, January 5," 5 Jan. 2021 The Ducks cut it to 28-17 at halftime, but that was false promise. oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks’ self-inflicted errors lead to Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State: Game at a glance," 2 Jan. 2021 Scientifically, personalized medicine has been the promise of the future for over a decade. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "Moderna and BioNTech are changing pharma with drastically different business models," 23 Dec. 2020 The Civil War historians who gathered at National Park sites like Gettysburg this September to protest omissions and distortions in existing signage know that this is a big promise to keep. Erin Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Just ‘Adding Context’ to Controversial Monuments May Not Change Minds," 18 Dec. 2020 Experiencing that terra incognita privately is the promise of Ultima Thule Lodge. Jen Murphy, Town & Country, "The Best Outdoor Adventures in America," 18 Dec. 2020 One aspect of the agreement was a promise not to excavate the Tomb of Daniel, which locals feared would incur divine wrath. Rue Des Archives/album, History Magazine, "This French archaeologist broke the law—by wearing pants," 17 Dec. 2020 Her hiring is a promise kept by NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde, who vowed to diversify ranks as part of his mandate. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "The new Biden administration signals an era of historic ‘firsts’," 10 Dec. 2020 And while there is promise in vaccines scheduled to soon begin distribution, the number of cases has been surging worldwide and offers no signs of slowing down as winter approaches. Chuck Fieldman,, "Local mental health professionals offer suggestions for dealing with coronavirus mental health challenges," 7 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Yes, there are other stainless-steel ice chests that look great, but none promise the performance this one delivers. The Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Gear of the Year: The Best Products We Tested in 2020," 29 Dec. 2020 The rapid demobilization of our armed force has enabled many servicemen to return to the families and the process continues to promise an early return of our servicemen to civilian life., "From the Files of The Farmer," 29 Dec. 2020 Unfortunately, given the skyrocketing resurgence of COVID-19 in our state, the next few months promise to be extremely challenging. Arn Tellem, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons' Arn Tellem: Let's do what we can to fill Little Caesars Arena again," 23 Dec. 2020 But many leaders who sought to promise some semblance of normalcy this season have had to shift course. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, "Presence, not presents: Finding meaning in a minimalist Christmas," 22 Dec. 2020 Investor and public pressures are prompting oil companies to promise to limit flaring. Washington Examiner, "US oil lobby launches program to reduce emissions from flaring of natural gas," 16 Dec. 2020 Over the weekend, members of the task force appeared on several news programs to promise a swift rollout of coronavirus vaccines by the end of the year. Bloomberg News, oregonlive, "CDC’s new coronavirus guidance would shorten quarantine time after exposure," 2 Dec. 2020 Who would be a good caretaker and promise not to run for the office? George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Whom should Newsom choose as Kamala Harris’ successor? Himself, Willie Brown says," 23 Nov. 2020 Her philandering husband, who would soon convert to Methodism and promise to reform, would go on to serve four terms as mayor of Fort Smith. Tom Dillard, Arkansas Online, "OPINION | TOM DILLARD: Neither love triangles nor murder anything new in the news," 21 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for promise

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for promise

Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for promise


How to pronounce promise (audio)

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


prom·​ise | \ ˈprä-məs How to pronounce promise (audio) \

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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