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prom·​ise ˈprä-məs How to pronounce promise (audio)
: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified
: 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
: reason to expect something
little promise of relief
especially : ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence
shows considerable promise
: something that is promised


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promised; promising

transitive verb

: to pledge to do, bring about, or provide
promise aid
archaic : warrant, assure
chiefly dialectal : betroth
: to suggest beforehand : give promise of
dark clouds promise rain

intransitive verb

: to make a promise
: to give ground for expectation : be imminent
promisee noun
promisor noun
or less commonly promiser

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
So is the promise of a second coming, which is not necessarily consoling. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 Arms control agreements generally lock countries into promises to limit their military activity and set up monitoring mechanisms so leaders can make sure their counterparts are abiding by their commitments. Mathias Hammer, TIME, 13 Nov. 2023 But despite the many eulogies for the metaverse, the promise has not died and the technologies seem to be improving. WIRED, 13 Nov. 2023 Shortcuts are always available, tempting brand owners with promises of higher yields and profits. Jason O'Bryan, Robb Report, 11 Nov. 2023 The first nation that got the word from God, the promise from God—the first nation is the one who has the right to it. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 11 Nov. 2023 Despite promises to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from 151 governments worldwide, fossil fuel producers are planning expansions that could jeopardize the climate’s future, a new United Nations report has found. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Nov. 2023 So, with the promise of $1,000 going to each man on the job, that March 18, 1988 morning, Smith and his associate, John Forrest Parker, knocked on the Sennetts' door. Emily Palmer, Peoplemag, 3 Nov. 2023 Despite the promises of methane reductions that Simmons touts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that methane in the atmosphere had its fourth-highest annual increase in 2022. Peter Vanham, Fortune, 2 Nov. 2023
Whether grabbing a latte with friends or running errands around town, these UGG Boots promise to warmly cradle your feet and elevate any outfit. Poppy Morgan, Rolling Stone, 17 Nov. 2023 Included in this bundle are five different patches that promise to de-puff, hydrate, brighten, smooth and illuminate the skin around your eyes. Anna Tingley, Variety, 16 Nov. 2023 That copay is based on the price the drug plan or PBM promises the pharmacy at the moment of sale. Arthur Allen, Fortune, 16 Nov. 2023 This chair was disappointing in several ways: it was delivered in poor condition (despite being ordered with white glove delivery), did not feature the adjustability that was promised, and—in our opinion—was no more comfortable than a more budget-friendly chair from Walmart. Sarah Bradley, Verywell Health, 16 Nov. 2023 Featuring plenty of the gore promised in the trailer, this throwback slasher pic will gratify genre fans who will appreciate the titular holiday finally getting its own horror film along with the likes of Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Nov. 2023 President Biden promised to remove every lead pipe in the United States by 2031. Jacey Fortin, New York Times, 15 Nov. 2023 In 2017, Mattel made another big pledge to the hospital, promising to donate $49 million in cash over the next 12 years. Sam Dean, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2023 But not even McCarthy promising an impeachment inquiry was able to buy him enough goodwill to simply keep the government running. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 4 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'promise.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English promis, from Latin promissum, from neuter of promissus, past participle of promittere to send forth, promise, from pro- forth + mittere to send

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of promise was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near promise

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
prom·​ise ˈpräm-əs How to pronounce promise (audio)
: a statement by a person that he or she will or will not do something
a promise to pay within a month
: something promised
: a cause or ground for hope
give promise of success
shows promise


2 of 2 verb
promised; promising
: to give a promise about one's own actions
I promise to clean my room this afternoon
: to give reason to expect
dark clouds promising rain
promisor noun


Middle English promisse, promis "promise," derived from Latin promissus, past participle of promittere "to send forth, promise," from pro- "forward, forth" and mittere "to send, throw" — related to message

Legal Definition


: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on promise

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