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 The president’s promise to improve health care and the economy for small businesses have yet to materialize, Johansen said. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Bernie Sanders supporters reluctantly turn to Joe Biden, fueled by their dislike of Donald Trump," 17 May 2020 The former Democratic presidential candidate campaigned on the promise to give $1,000 per month to every American adult—no questions asked—in what would have been the planet’s first truly universal basic income plan. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "From Pope Francis to the Bond King, universal basic income is gaining support around the world," 16 May 2020 The first four coronavirus response bills were bipartisan measures that passed by sweeping votes, but Friday's measure — with a $3 trillion-plus price tag that exceeds the prior bills combined — promises to pass largely along party lines. Andrew Taylor And Alan Fram, Houston Chronicle, "House to vote Friday on more virus aid, despite GOP skeptics," 15 May 2020 VanArsdale traces the form back more than a thousand years, to early religious texts that include demands for their own reproduction and promises of good fortune or eternal salvation to those who comply. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "You’ve Got Chain E-Mail," 15 May 2020 Whatever the case, companies must weigh past promises against public perception, says Aalap Shah, a partner at Pearl Meyer, an executive-pay consulting firm. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "CEO pay at Tenet Healthcare, Kroger, other firms come under microscope as companies cut costs," 15 May 2020 The first four coronavirus response bills were bipartisan measures that passed by sweeping votes, but Friday’s measure — with a $3 trillion-plus price tag that exceeds the prior bills combined — promises to pass largely along party lines. Time, "House to Vote on Another Coronavirus Rescue Bill Despite GOP Skeptics," 15 May 2020 Typically, the aroma of oranges holds an iconic Florida promise of sunshine and health, and wealth that can be poured into a glass. USA Today, "As coronavirus pandemic spikes orange juice sales, a Florida citrus grower gets squeezed," 13 May 2020 The promise did little to immediately ease tensions. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, "Indianapolis is the largest city in the nation without police body cameras," 8 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The European Union has promised to make climate change the centerpiece of its post-pandemic development plans for decades in the future. Justin Worland, Time, "As the Rest of the World Plans a Green Recovery, America Is Once Again Falling Behind," 15 May 2020 There are even online parties promised, with a virtual opening night bash, featuring live music, dancing and filmmaker presentations that will be open to viewers who have AIFF memberships. oregonlive, "The Ashland Independent Film Festival moves online, as the coronavirus outbreak cancels large gatherings," 15 May 2020 This new show promises far less trauma than Gadsby’s last one, but just as many laughs. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "Hamilton Is Coming to Disney+ Very Soon," 14 May 2020 Uber promised to occupy nearly all of the 500,000-square-foot office tower currently under construction and hire at least 2,500 full-time employees at an average salary of $100,000. Hayat Norimine, Dallas News, "Uber gets two-year extension for Dallas economic incentives," 13 May 2020 In exchange for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba, the United States agreed to give up its Jupiter-missile bases in Turkey, and also promised to cease and desist from further plans to invade Cuba. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, "In Venezuela, Americans Attempt to Stage a “Bay of Piglets”," 13 May 2020 Lyft, which offers street-rental bikes called Bay Wheels, sued San Francisco in June to get Jump bikes off the street, saying it was promised exclusivity. Carolyn Said,, "Uber Eats shows growth; Uber ride-hailing declines," 7 May 2020 And most of them promise some kind of in-room calibration. Matt Bean, Sunset Magazine, "Sonos Announces New Arc Sound Bar for Your Shelter-at-Home Theater Needs," 6 May 2020 In 1940, while campaigning for his third presidential term, Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to start the first training program for black military pilots. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "Why the Tuskegee Airmen Were So Badass," 5 May 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

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 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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