verb with·hold \ with-ˈhōld , wit͟h- \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of withhold

withheld play \with-ˈheld, wit͟h-\; withholding
1 : to hold back from action : check
2 archaic : to keep in custody
3 : to refrain from granting, giving, or allowing
  • withhold permission
4 : to deduct (withholding tax) from income
: forbear, refrain
  • withhold from commenting



Examples of withhold in a Sentence

  1. She was accused of withholding evidence.

  2. She has withheld from her paycheck every week.

Recent Examples of withhold from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'withhold.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of withhold

Middle English, from with from + holden to hold — more at with

Synonym Discussion of withhold

keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control. keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control.
    • keep this while I'm gone
retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss.
    • managed to retain their dignity even in poverty
detain suggests a delay in letting go.
    • detained them for questioning
withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go.
    • withheld information from the authorities
reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use.
    • reserve some of your energy for the last mile

Financial Definition of WITHHOLD


What It Is

Withholding refers to withholding tax, which is an amount that employers withhold from an employee's paycheck and remit to local and federal taxing authorities on behalf of the employee.

How It Works

For example, let's say John Doe's salary is $24,000 a year. Though he makes $2,000 a month, he only brings home $1,800 because his employer takes $200 out of his paycheck and remits it to the state and the federal government on his behalf. The payments go toward John Doe's federal income tax, state income tax, unemployment, and Medicare liabilities.

The amount of withholding is influenced by what John Doe puts on his IRS Form W-4 ("Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate"), which he provides to the employer and on which he indicates how many dependents he has and his marital status, among other things. A copy goes directly to the IRS. Generally, the more allowances the employee claims on a Form W-4, the lower the withholding tax.

Withholding tax applies to income earned through wages, pensions, bonuses, commissions, and gambling winnings. Dividends and capital gains, for example, are not subject to withholding tax. Self-employed people generally don't pay withholding taxes; they typically make quarterly estimated payments instead.

Why It Matters

Withholding tax prevents people from being blindsided by huge tax bills on April 15. By having their employers remit a little out of each paycheck, federal and local governments also ensure steady cash flow throughout the year and reduce the risk that taxpayers will be unable to pay their taxes. A person's tax liability may still be more or less than what he or she pays in withholding taxes in a year. In those cases, the taxpayer may have to pay more money on April 15 or may receive a tax refund. It is important to note that accuracy in payroll is crucial; any mistakes in remitting withholding tax are generally the taxpayer's problem even if they are the employer's fault.

WITHHOLD Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of withhold for English Language Learners

  • : to hold (something) back

  • : to refuse to provide (something)

  • : to take out (an amount of money for taxes) from someone's income

WITHHOLD Defined for Kids


verb with·hold \ with-ˈhōld , wit͟h- \

Definition of withhold for Students

withheld \-ˈheld\; withholding
: to refuse to give, grant, or allow
  • The teacher withheld permission.

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