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 And the new demands on soybeans specifically risk adding another layer of complexity to China's promise to purchase more U.S. soybeans as part of the trade deal. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "China wants U.S. soybeans checked for coronavirus, further complicating the trade deal with Trump," 24 June 2020 Virtual reality holds an inherent promise to allow users to transcend physical space, to see — and potentially touch — who and what’s not really there in front of them. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, "You could use a hug. Here are some safe options," 23 June 2020 The Lordstown facility, formerly a General Motors manufacturing site, has been a sore spot for Trump in Ohio following Trump’s promise to a Youngstown crowd that factory jobs were coming back to the area. cleveland, "Mike DeWine won’t join Mike Pence in Lordstown, didn’t ask VP to wear mask during Thursday visit," 23 June 2020 As the meeting became almost inevitable, Bolton said that Pompeo made a similar promise to resign. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, "'F--- this': Fiona Hill says H.R. McMaster almost quit after Trump 'spoke disrespectfully' to Emmanuel Macron," 22 June 2020 And Trump’s speech in Tulsa contained little more of an economic program than a promise not to raise taxes and predictions that the stock market will continue to rise. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "This Is How Trump Plans to Beat Biden," 21 June 2020 That is a hard promise to keep for any company with operations in China. The Economist, "Schumpeter Can Zoom be trusted with users’ secrets?," 20 June 2020 For blacks, the Declaration carried a promise not yet fulfilled. Annette Gordon-reed, The New Yorker, "Growing Up with Juneteenth," 19 June 2020 Instead, unemployment seekers could leave their information and someone would call them next week — a promise that rang hollow for many in line who have dealt with unanswered calls and emails for weeks. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "After not receiving benefits, hundreds flock to Frankfort again to resolve unemployment issues," 17 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As more big corporations and governments promise to go carbon-neutral, many are relying on carbon emissions trading as a way to meet their goals. Eric Niiler, Wired, "'Carbon Farming' Could Make US Agriculture Truly Green," 24 June 2020 If stars of all races and ethnicities would promise to not promote unhealthy products to kids, then companies could be forced to change, Cassidy added. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "Billions spent on ads encouraging minority youth to drink sugar-laden beverages despite health consequences," 23 June 2020 Filled with hope and promise that the public at large -- the majority! -- are aligning behind repudiation of centuries-old racial/ethnic injustices. The Washington Post, "Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten," 23 June 2020 Featuring on/off technology that reacts to your movement, the Momentum 3s promise to get you into the music faster than any of their competitors. Popular Science, "Over-the-ear headphones to immerse you in high-quality sound," 19 June 2020 The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department’s budget managers promise no hunting or fishing fee increases until at least 2024. oregonlive, "Bill Monroe: Oregon, Washington in standoff over sturgeon fishing in Columbia River estuary," 13 June 2020 Newman did not quite promise not to take any profits. Robert P. Baird, The New Yorker, "How Utah’s Tech Industry Tried to Disrupt Coronavirus Testing," 13 June 2020 The film — which also stars Samara Weaving, Jillian Bell and Holland Taylor — seems to promise a return to the tubular nostalgia for fans, who last saw the characters on the big screen in 1991's Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Benjamin Vanhoose,, "Bill & Ted Are Back! Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter Face the Music in Hilarious Trailer for Sequel," 9 June 2020 Often, public officials promise significant changes. Lauren Castle, azcentral, "Police officers are rarely prosecuted or convicted in Arizona. Here are some of the hurdles," 9 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

27 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 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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