un·​der·​take | \ˌən-dər-ˈtāk \
undertook\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈtu̇k \; undertaken\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈtā-​kən \; undertaking

Definition of undertake 

transitive verb

1 : to take upon oneself : set about : attempt undertake a task undertake to learn to swim

2 : to put oneself under obligation to perform also : to accept as a charge or responsibility the lawyer who undertook the case

3 : guarantee, promise readily undertook that the letter should be securely conveyed— Sir Walter Scott

intransitive verb

archaic : to give surety or assume responsibility

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Synonyms & Antonyms for undertake


accept, assume, bear, shoulder, take over


disavow, disclaim, disown, repudiate

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Examples of undertake in a Sentence

He's undertaking a thorough search. The researchers undertook a series of studies.

Recent Examples on the Web

That feels like an engineering task to be undertaken once the cellular biology gets worked out. Joi Ito, WIRED, "Fake Meat, Served Six Ways," 2 July 2018 South Milwaukee is looking to make a total expenditure of $5,745,000 to undertake a number of projects in the city’s project plan. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "South Milwaukee looking to spend $6 million to revitalize portions of downtown, former Bucyrus property," 27 June 2018 But Edwards, in his response, said the state doesn't have the money to undertake the work, which will cost approximately $95 million to $120 million. Bob Warren, NOLA.com, "No money to speed St. Tammany's I-12 expansion, Gov. Edwards says," 4 June 2018 Later Bartleby started sleeping in the office, refusing either to leave or to undertake any work at all. The Economist, "Introducing Bartleby, our new column on management and work," 26 May 2018 This mission will also include a rover to undertake scientific excursions. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "China takes a critical first step toward landing on the far side of the Moon," 21 May 2018 Since Trump’s upset victory, artists haven’t exactly felt the need to undertake an apology tour to repent of their outspokenness. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Can Protest Art Get Its Mojo Back?," 7 May 2018 Here, Riley zeroes in on the performances black employees in Silicon Valley and beyond must undertake just to exist in the same space as their white colleagues and bosses. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Has an Eerily Familiar Villain," 10 July 2018 And, to be clear, the paragraph comes after an 18-month investigation undertaken not just by Trump's Justice Department, but by his own nominee in U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump’s own Justice Department reprimands his conspiracy theorizing," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undertake.' 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 undertake

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for undertake

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for undertake

The first known use of undertake was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of undertake

: to begin or attempt (something)

: to agree or promise to do (something)


un·​der·​take | \ˌən-dər-ˈtāk \
undertook\ -​ˈtu̇k \; undertaken\ -​ˈtā-​kən \; undertaking

Kids Definition of undertake

1 : to plan or try to accomplish They undertook a trip around the world.

2 : to take on as a responsibility : agree I undertake to deliver your package.

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Comments on undertake

What made you want to look up undertake? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

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