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

Other Words from promise


promisee \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsē How to pronounce promise (audio) \ noun
promisor \ ˌprä-​mə-​ˈsȯr How to pronounce promise (audio) \ or less commonly promiser \ ˈprä-​mə-​sər How to pronounce promise (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun As the Patriots’ Jones saw in Week 1, Miami can show a Cover 0 look before the snap and deliver on that promise with an all-out blitz. Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun, 17 Sep. 2022 Initially, the cruise line would not honor the promise of a full cruise voucher. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, 16 Sep. 2022 On the consumer front, the report suggests crypto presents an especially acute threat to lower-income people lured by the promise of quick riches. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 What stands out, however, is the way Prince-Bythewood films her, from a slightly low angle and in a way that emphasizes strength, bravery, leadership, nobility, the promise of violence. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 16 Sep. 2022 The series captures one of the moments that defined her reign, the promise of a lifetime of service to the British crown delivered in a speech during her 21st birthday speech. Marysabel Huston-crespo, CNN, 16 Sep. 2022 The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the electric automaker, lured by the promise of American subsidies included in the Inflation Reduction Act, is re-evaluating plans to manufacture vehicle batteries in Germany. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2022 Governor Charlie Baker said the state is exploring using Joint Base Cape Cod for temporary shelter and humanitarian services for the migrants, some of whom said they were lured by the promise of jobs and other services. Brian Macquarrie,, 15 Sep. 2022 Antiaging clinics have been pushing the same promise of looks and performance since the late 20th century. Men's Health, 15 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Whatever Moscow may promise Washington in terms of assistance with Iran and the JCPOA, cannot be trusted. Iulia Lupse, Fox News, 13 Sep. 2022 Turkey vultures swirl above billboards in which smiling attorneys promise bonanza payouts for injury lawsuits. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 July 2022 Dalen Terry shows promise despite an injury concern. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 20 July 2022 As cities and households around the country gear up to celebrate the 246th birthday of the United States of America, some shows promise to put on bigger and better firework displays than ever before. Camille Fine, USA TODAY, 4 July 2022 In chapters 3 and 4, the authors promise a two-step process for determining my attachment style and that of my partner. Morgan Parker, ELLE, 4 June 2022 At least 36 percent of Americans are now using same-day delivery, while delivery apps such as Shipt, for example, promise some deliveries in as little as an hour. Adam Chandler, The Atlantic, 31 May 2022 The harrowing difficulties that led her to the baby box come to light both inside Sang-hyun’s van and in her secret conversations with the detectives, who promise leniency in exchange for help nailing their target. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 May 2022 Better luck alone would promise better performance in 2022. Childs Walker, Baltimore Sun, 26 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near promise



promised land

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Statistics for promise

Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Promise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for promise


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

More from Merriam-Webster on promise

Nglish: Translation of promise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of promise for Arabic Speakers


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