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 promisee (audio) \ noun
promisor \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsȯr How to pronounce promisor (audio) \ or less commonly promiser \ ˈprä-​mə-​sər How to pronounce promiser (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 Earlier this year, Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, dubbed the USMCA, as part of fulfilling his key 2016 campaign promise to alter free trade agreements that put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "Trudeau declines White House invitation to celebrate new trade deal amid coronavirus," 6 July 2020 Both have shown promise in minor-league and spring-training outings. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "I saw the Detroit Tigers' future at Comerica Park. And it looks good.," 4 July 2020 Boris Johnson reiterated his promise that Hong Kongers who were born before 1997, when the territory was handed back to China, could settle in Britain. The Economist, "Politics this week," 4 July 2020 Each of the 1,617 foreclosures last year, and hundreds before them, represents a reverse mortgage loan that did not deliver on its original promise of stable housing as seniors age. USA Today, "Hurricane fallout creates financial ruin for Puerto Rico's seniors with reverse mortgages," 2 July 2020 The American pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences is coming under scrutiny for agreements that activists say will restrict global access to remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug that has shown promise in treating COVID-19. Vidya Krishnan, Los Angeles Times, "How secret deals could keep a COVID-19 drug out of reach for millions," 1 July 2020 Even though the treatment has shown promise, the potential price has been top of mind for Americans who can face high medical bills even under adequate health insurance plans. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "COVID-19 drug remdesivir priced at $390 per vial for some patients, $520 for others," 30 June 2020 The program’s biggest appeal was its promise that loans would be forgiven, but confusion abounded about requirements owners had to meet to get that forgiveness. Washington Post, "Billions of dollars in aid for small businesses go unclaimed," 29 June 2020 The part-time staff will also return for events and the facility will honor its promise of a $15 an hour minimum wage. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Back on the job: Wisconsin Center preparations accelerate for 2020 DNC in Milwaukee," 29 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The infotainment system now uses a touchscreen, and there are a few tweaks that promise to improve quietness. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "2021 Lexus LS Will Receive Styling and Infotainment Updates," 7 July 2020 Your plans promise greater freedom and positive change, especially regarding long-range goals., "Horoscope," 7 July 2020 Their critiques and subsequent activism promise to permanently improve the representation of Latino people in publishing. Ron Charles, Washington Post, "While offensive TV shows get pulled, problematic books are still inspiring debate and conversation," 3 July 2020 Now, Plink is out with new products that promise sparkling dishes and drinkware. Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes & Gardens, "Plink Just Launched Two New Products to Keep Your Dishes and Drinkware Fresh and Clean," 2 July 2020 Some startups offer off-the-shelf systems that promise to be easy to deploy and use. Will Knight, Wired, "In These Factories, Inspector Robot Will Check Your Work," 1 July 2020 At the Crooked River Ranch Golf Course in Central Oregon and The Circuit Bouldering Gym’s three Portland area rock-climbing locales, customers must promise not to sue even if the businesses are negligent for causing COVID-19 infections. oregonlive, "Eager to avoid coronavirus lawsuits, some Oregon businesses are requiring customers to sign away their rights to sue," 1 July 2020 Washington Post Virginia’s first offshore wind turbines promise jobs and clean power. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: Centrist Democrat Sean Casten accuses GOP of choosing ‘suicide’ on climate," 1 July 2020 For example, populations experiencing economic distress or an external threat have often turned to authoritarian leaders who promise security and stability. Adrian Bardon, Scientific American, "Coronavirus Responses Highlight How Humans Have Evolved to Dismiss Facts That Don’t Fit Their Worldview," 26 June 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

9 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on promise

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for promise

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with promise

Spanish Central: Translation of promise

Nglish: Translation of promise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of promise for Arabic Speakers

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