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

Lantern’s solo bid made no promises of a dedicated victims’ fund. Ryan Faughnder,, "Bankruptcy judge approves $21-million price cut in Weinstein Co. sale, expected to close Friday," 11 July 2018 Paul notes that China has repeatedly made empty promises to reform its practices. Washington Post, "Stuck in trade war, US and China face uncertain path to deal," 10 July 2018 Volkswagen made promises to a variety of countries to build more electric vehicles in the wake of its global diesel scandal in which millions of diesel cars were found to be emitting nitrogen oxide in excess of legal limits. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Chinese firm will build battery factory in Germany to supply BMW, Volkswagen," 9 July 2018 Like Trump and other populists, López Obrador is making promises far beyond what can likely be accomplished. Kate Linthicum, The Seattle Times, "Mexico’s move toward populism comes from the left," 2 July 2018 Nominees typically don't make promises to presidents or senators, at least not in public, and justices have often ruled differently from the bench than their White House benefactors expected. Jay Willis, GQ, "Why Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Is Even Worse Than You Think," 27 June 2018 Now the companies — including Bird, Lime, Skip and even Uber and Lyft — are making big promises to get legal. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: The Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban; 17 states sue Trump," 27 June 2018 Back in February, LeBron James did not make any promises. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, "As ‘pressure’ builds in LA, Spurs see reason to be patient," 27 June 2018 All presidents exaggerate, shade the truth, use facts selectively, and make unrealistic promises. Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, "Trump and truth: Why the media are losing the battle," 25 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

An agency in Nigeria sold them World Cup fan identification cards that allowed them to enter Russia without a visa and promised them work. Fox News, "60 Nigerians brought to Russia for World Cup ask for help," 13 July 2018 Manchester United midfielder Andreas Pereira wants to remain at Old Trafford this summer and says that manager Jose Mourinho has promised him a chance in the first-team next season., "Man Utd Starlet Confirms He's Staying to Compete for First Team Place Having Rejected La Liga Move," 9 July 2018 Meanwhile, the United States is poised to slap a 25 percent duty on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods early next month — and China has promised to respond in kind. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "As Europe’s Tariffs on U.S. Goods Take Effect, Trump Threatens Retaliation," 22 June 2018 Michael Jordan Flight School, as our camp was called, promised daily appearances from the great man himself, who had established the program a couple of years earlier. Angelica Baker, Vogue, "Going One-on-One with Greatness at Michael Jordan’s Summer Camp," 13 July 2018 The Bears promise a new offense and some fans are deliriously excited even before training camp opens. John Kass,, "Joy of Chicago's Croatians cresting as World Cup final with France approaches," 13 July 2018 During the campaign, the now president-elect promised to rein in rather than expand federal regulations. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "Firefighters protect us. Who protects them?," 13 July 2018 Alternativa said the Nigerian Embassy promised help, but did little for the men. Fox News, "60 Nigerians brought to Russia for World Cup ask for help," 13 July 2018 The Justice Department had agreed not to seek an emergency court order preventing the deal from closing after AT&T promised to operate Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting as a separate business unit until 2019. David Mclaughlin And Andrew Harris / Bloomberg, Time, "Department of Justice Appeals Court Ruling That Allowed AT&T-Time Warner Merger," 12 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

10 Sep 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).


the setting in which something occurs

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