Definition of promise in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpräməs/


1A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen: what happened to all those firm promises of support? [with clause]: he took my fax number with the promise that he would send me a drawing [with infinitive]: I did not keep my promise to go home early
More example sentences
  • We have been hearing the same promises and assurances for more than 10 years now.
  • It has failed to receive firm guarantees or promises from either side.
  • All the promises, all the assurances, were broken.
word (of honor), assurance, pledge, vow, guarantee, oath, bond, undertaking, agreement, commitment, contract, covenant
1.1The quality of potential excellence: he showed great promise even as a junior officer
More example sentences
  • In a statement to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, quoted by Reuters, Pardew described the country as a nation of great promise and potential.
  • Of course, the flip side of such promise is the potential for humiliation.
  • Narratives of progress and development are rooted deeply in the potential and promise of the West's best ideals and traditions.
potential, ability, aptitude, capability, capacity
1.2 [in singular] An indication that something specified is expected or likely to occur: the promise of peace
More example sentences
  • Every indication points to the promise of continued improvements in the cost and performance of storage, depending on the technology involved.
  • Day three started with the promise of very fine weather but we were met with a delivery of a sudden shower as we followed a narrow dirt trail.
  • For children like these, the promise of peace in Angola may come too late.
indication, hint, suggestion, sign


1 [reporting verb] Assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen: [with infinitive]: he promised to forward my mail [with clause]: she made him promise that he wouldn’t do it again [with direct speech]: “I’ll bring it right back,” she promised [with two objects]: he promised her the job
More example sentences
  • The reduction in my expenses in a certain way was something that I definitely promised to do if I got this money.
  • I definitely don't promise to stop hoping that you'll bury the hatchet already.
  • An inspector arrived later and promised to have the job done last Friday.
give one's word, swear, pledge, vow, undertake, guarantee, contract, engage, give an assurance, commit oneself, bind oneself, swear/take an oath, covenant
archaic plight
1.1 [with object] (usually be promised) archaic Pledge (someone, especially a woman) to marry someone else; betroth: I’ve been promised to him for years
2 [with object] Give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation): forthcoming concerts promise a feast of music from around the world [with infinitive]: it promised to be a night that all present would long remember
More example sentences
  • Even more than the transfer of power at the top of the party, this change promises fundamental transformation of the political order itself.
  • This play promises a surprise finale that will shock not only the audience, but the actors as well.
  • The crackdown is not aimed at organised firework shows and tonight promises a feast of spectacular events.
indicate, lead one to expect, point to, denote, signify, be a sign of, be evidence of, give hope of, bespeak, presage, augur, herald, bode, portend
literary betoken, foretoken, forebode
2.1(Of a person, publication, institution, etc.) announce (something) as being expected to happen: in its pre-Christmas trading statement it promised record results [with two objects]: we’re promised more winter weather tonight
More example sentences
  • Forecasters were promising a record snowfall in Boston, Massachusetts, and up to a metre of snow on the Cape Cod peninsula, southeast of Boston.
  • He recently went on record to promise a frank report from the 12-year inquiry into collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
  • It's gone now, but the weather promises future freezing.
2.2 (promise oneself) Contemplate the pleasant expectation of: he tidied up the room, promising himself an early night
More example sentences
  • You seem not quite ready yet, but promise yourself to expect something interesting in the future.
  • Have you been promising yourself that you will take up something new to get you out during the summer, but then somehow you always manage to end up in the pub?
  • This might be the moment to get that new phone number you've been promising yourself, and then neglect to pass on the details to me.



I promise (or I promise you)

informal Used for emphasis, especially so as to reassure, encourage, or threaten someone: oh, I’m not joking, I promise you
More example sentences
  • If you want to threaten me, I promise you that no member of your local will work here for the next 60 years.
  • No, I promise it's not the makings of a classical joke, as my postman can testify.
  • No, there will be no risk of me getting in the way, I promise you.

promise (someone) the earth (or moon)

Make extravagant promises to someone that are unlikely to be fulfilled: interactive technology titillates, promises the earth, but delivers nothing
More example sentences
  • With only a few days remaining there will be higher temptations by many people to lie by promising them the moon.
  • While some parties are talking about Muslim rights, others are promising them the moon.
  • At the same time he was promising me the moon, he was making plans to see her!

promises, promises

informal Used to indicate that the speaker is skeptical about someone’s stated intention to do something.
Example sentences
  • When it's there I will say thank you very much but I have got to the stage where it just seems like promises, promises.



Example sentences
  • He was a whiner as a government critic and a reckless promiser; in 1954, without consulting colleagues, he suddenly promised to abolish the means test on age pensions.
  • The Internet mavens who you say promised access to everything must have been latecomers and certainly were not the first promisers.
  • Similarly, if a promise to do an act is an attempt to make an audience believe that the promiser will do the act, then to break a promise is for a promiser to make false a belief that the promiser created.


Late Middle English: from Latin promissum 'something promised', neuter past participle of promittere 'put forth, promise', from pro- 'forward' + mittere 'send'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: prom·ise

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