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[hohld] /hoʊld/
verb (used with object), held; held or (Archaic) holden; holding.
to have or keep in the hand; keep fast; grasp:
She held the purse in her right hand. He held the child's hand in his.
to set aside; reserve or retain:
to hold merchandise until called for; to hold a reservation.
to bear, sustain, or support, as with the hands or arms, or by any other means.
to keep in a specified state, relation, etc.:
The preacher held them spellbound.
to detain:
The police held him at the station house.
to engage in; preside over; carry on:
to hold a meeting.
to keep back from action; hinder; restrain:
Fear held him from acting.
to have the ownership or use of; keep as one's own; occupy:
to hold political office.
to contain or be capable of containing:
This bottle holds a quart.
to bind or make accountable to an obligation:
We will hold you to your promise to pay back the money.
to have or keep in the mind; think or believe:
We hold this belief.
to regard or consider:
to hold a person responsible.
to decide legally.
to consider of a certain value; rate:
We held her best of all the applicants.
to keep forcibly, as against an adversary:
Enemy forces held the hill.
to point, aim, or direct:
He held a gun on the prisoner. The firefighter held a hose on the blaze.
Music. to sustain (a note, chord, or rest).
to omit from the usual order or combination:
Give me a burger well-done—hold the pickle.
verb (used without object), held; held or (Archaic) holden; holding.
to remain or continue in a specified state, relation, etc.:
Hold still while I take your picture.
to remain fast; adhere; cling:
Will this button hold?
to keep or maintain a grasp on something.
to maintain one's position against opposition; continue in resistance.
to agree or side (usually followed by with):
to hold with new methods.
to hold property by some tenure; derive title (usually followed by by, from, in, or of).
to remain attached, faithful, or steadfast (usually followed by to):
to hold to one's purpose.
to remain valid; be in force:
The rule does not hold.
to refrain or forbear (usually used imperatively).
an act of holding fast by a grasp of the hand or by some other physical means; grasp; grip:
Take hold. Do you have a hold on the rope?
something to hold a thing by, as a handle; something to grasp, especially for support.
something that holds fast or supports something else.
an order reserving something:
to put a hold on a library book.
Finance. a security purchased or recommended for long-term growth.
a controlling force or dominating influence:
to have a hold on a person.
Wrestling. a method of seizing an opponent and keeping him in control:
a toe hold.
Music. fermata.
a pause or delay, as in a continuing series:
a hold in the movements of a dance.
a prison or prison cell.
a receptacle for something:
a basket used as a hold for letters.
Rocketry. a halt in the prelaunch countdown, either planned or unexpectedly called, to allow correction of one or more faults in the rocket or missile.
a fortified place; stronghold.
(on telephones with two or more lines) a feature that enables a person to maintain a connection on one line while answering another line.
Verb phrases
hold back,
  1. to restrain or check:
    Police held back the crowd.
  2. to retain possession of; keep back:
    He held back ten dollars.
  3. to refrain from revealing; withhold:
    to hold back information.
  4. to refrain from participating or engaging in some activity:
    He held back from joining in the singing because he felt depressed.
  5. Photography. dodge (def 2).
hold down,
  1. to restrain; check:
    Hold down that noise!
  2. to continue to hold and manage well:
    She held down that job for years.
hold forth,
  1. to extend or offer; propose.
  2. to talk at great length; harangue:
    When we left, he was still holding forth on World War II.
hold in,
  1. to restrain; check; curb.
  2. to contain oneself; exercise restraint:
    He was raging inside, but held himself in for fear of saying something he would regret.
hold off,
  1. to keep at a distance; resist; repel.
  2. to postpone action; defer:
    If you hold off applying for a passport, you may not get one in time.
hold on,
  1. to keep a firm grip on.
  2. to keep going; continue.
  3. to maintain, as one's opinion or position.
  4. to stop; halt (usually used imperatively):
    Hold on now! That isn't what I meant at all.
  5. to keep a telephone connection open by not hanging up the receiver:
    The operator asked us to hold on while the number we'd dialed was being checked.
hold out,
  1. to present; offer.
  2. to stretch forth; extend:
    Hold out your hand.
  3. to continue to exist; last:
    Will the food hold out?
  4. to refuse to yield or submit:
    The defenders held out for weeks.
  5. to withhold something expected or due:
    He was suspected of holding out information important to the case.
hold over,
  1. to keep for future consideration or action; postpone.
  2. to remain in possession or in office beyond the regular term.
  3. to remain beyond the arranged period:
    The movie was held over for a week.
  4. Music. to prolong (a tone) from one measure to the next.
hold up,
  1. to offer; give:
    She held up his father as an example to follow.
  2. to present to notice; expose:
    to hold someone up to ridicule.
  3. to hinder; delay:
    The plane's departure was held up because of the storm.
  4. to stop by force in order to rob.
  5. to support; uphold:
    to hold up farm prices.
  6. to stop; halt:
    They held up at the gate.
  7. to maintain one's position or condition; endure:
    They held up through all their troubles.
hold with,
  1. to be in agreement with; concur with:
    I don't hold with his pessimistic views.
  2. to approve of; condone:
    They won't hold with such a travesty of justice.
get hold of,
  1. to get a hold on:
    Get hold of the railing.
  2. to communicate with, especially by telephone:
    If she's not at home, try to get hold of her at the office.
hold one's own. own (def 11).
hold one's peace. peace (def 14).
hold one's tongue. tongue (def 33).
hold water. water (def 37).
no holds barred, without limits, rules, or restraints.
on hold,
  1. in or into a state of temporary interruption or suspension:
    The project will be put on hold until funds become available.
  2. Telecommunications. in or into a state of temporary interruption in a telephone connection:
    I'm putting you on hold to answer another call.
    Compare call waiting.
Origin of hold1
before 900; Middle English holden, Old English h(e)aldan; cognate with Old Frisian, Old Norse halda, Old Saxon, Gothic haldan, Old High German haltan (German halten)
Related forms
holdable, adjective
8. possess, own. 11. embrace, espouse, have. 12. deem, esteem, judge. 19. persist, last, endure. 20. stick.
Synonym Study
8. See have. 9. See contain. 11. See maintain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hold down
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Some called on the Colonel to hold down the cap lower, so that Bob could reach it.

    Rollo on the Atlantic Jacob Abbott
  • He matched their acceleration to hold down the relative speeds.

    Tulan Carroll Mather Capps
  • That's all right; but there are enemies you have to hold down.

    Frank Merriwell's Races

    Burt L. Standish
  • They pull me off, and I hold down my head and fold my arms, just like friar do.

    Mr. Midshipman Easy Captain Frederick Marryat
  • hold down your heads, girls: if it's anybody that knows us, we're lost.

British Dictionary definitions for hold down

hold down

verb (transitive, adverb)
to restrain or control
(informal) to manage to retain or keep possession of: to hold down two jobs at once


verb holds, holding, held (hɛld)
to have or keep (an object) with or within the hands, arms, etc; clasp
(transitive) to support or bear: to hold a drowning man's head above water
to maintain or be maintained in a specified state or condition: to hold one's emotions in check, hold firm
(transitive) to set aside or reserve: they will hold our tickets until tomorrow
(when intransitive, usually used in commands) to restrain or be restrained from motion, action, departure, etc: hold that man until the police come
(intransitive) to remain fast or unbroken: that cable won't hold much longer
(intransitive) (of the weather) to remain dry and bright: how long will the weather hold?
(transitive) to keep the attention of: her singing held the audience
(transitive) to engage in or carry on: to hold a meeting
(transitive) to have the ownership, possession, etc, of: he holds a law degree from London, who's holding the ace of spades?
(transitive) to have the use of or responsibility for: to hold the office of director
(transitive) to have the space or capacity for: the carton will hold only eight books
(transitive) to be able to control the outward effects of drinking beer, spirits, etc: he can hold his drink well
often foll by to or by. to remain or cause to remain committed to: hold him to his promise, he held by his views in spite of opposition
(transitive; takes a clause as object) to claim: he holds that the theory is incorrect
(intransitive) to remain relevant, valid, or true: the old philosophies don't hold nowadays
(transitive) to keep in the mind: to hold affection for someone
(transitive) to regard or consider in a specified manner: I hold him very dear
(transitive) to guard or defend successfully: hold the fort against the attack
(intransitive) to continue to go: hold on one's way
(sometimes foll by on) (music) to sustain the sound of (a note) throughout its specified duration: to hold on a semibreve for its full value
(transitive) (computing) to retain (data) in a storage device after copying onto another storage device or onto another location in the same device Compare clear (sense 49)
(transitive) to be in possession of illegal drugs
hold for, hold good for, to apply or be relevant to: the same rules hold for everyone
(South African) holding thumbs, holding the thumb of one hand with the other, in the hope of bringing good luck
hold it!
  1. stop! wait!
  2. stay in the same position! as when being photographed
hold one's head high, to conduct oneself in a proud and confident manner
hold one's own, to maintain one's situation or position esp in spite of opposition or difficulty
hold one's peace, hold one's tongue, to keep silent
hold water, to prove credible, logical, or consistent
there is no holding him, he is so spirited or resolute that he cannot be restrained
the act or method of holding fast or grasping, as with the hands
something to hold onto, as for support or control
an object or device that holds fast or grips something else so as to hold it fast
controlling force or influence: she has a hold on him
a short delay or pause
a prison or a cell in a prison
(wrestling) a way of seizing one's opponent: a wrist hold
(music) a pause or fermata
  1. a tenure or holding, esp of land
  2. (in combination): leasehold, freehold, copyhold
a container
(archaic) a fortified place
get hold of
  1. to obtain
  2. to come into contact with
no holds barred, all limitations removed
on hold, in a state of temporary postponement or delay
Derived Forms
holdable, adjective
Word Origin
Old English healdan; related to Old Norse halla, Gothic haldan, German halten


the space in a ship or aircraft for storing cargo
Word Origin
C16: variant of hole
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hold down



Old English haldan (Anglian), healdan (West Saxon), "to contain, grasp; retain; foster, cherish," class VII strong verb (past tense heold, past participle healden), from Proto-Germanic *haldanan (cf. Old Saxon haldan, Old Frisian halda, Old Norse halda, Dutch houden, German halten "to hold," Gothic haldan "to tend"), originally "to keep, tend, watch over" (as cattle), later "to have." Ancestral sense is preserved in behold. The original past participle holden was replaced by held beginning 16c., but survives in some legal jargon and in beholden.

Hold back is 1530s, transitive; 1570s, intransitive; hold off is early 15c., transitive; c.1600, intransitive; hold out is 1520s as "to stretch forth," 1580s as "to resist pressure." Hold on is early 13c. as "to maintain one’s course," 1830 as "to keep one’s grip on something," 1846 as an order to wait or stop. To hold (one's) tongue "be silent" is from c.1300. To hold (one's) own is from early 14c. To hold (someone's) hand "give moral support" is from 1935. Phrase hold your horses "be patient" is from 1844. To have and to hold have been paired alliteratively since at least c.1200, originally of marriage but also of real estate.



"space in a ship below the lower deck, in which cargo is stowed," 15c. corruption in the direction of hold (v.) of Old English hol "hole" (see hole), influenced by Middle Dutch hol "hold of a ship," and Middle English hul, which originally meant both "the hold" and "the hull" of a ship (see hull). Or possibly from Old English holu "husk, pod." All from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal."



"act of holding," c.1100; "grasp, grip," c.1200, from Old English geheald (Anglian gehald) "keeping, custody, guard; watch, protector, guardian," from hold (v.). Meaning "place of refuge" is from c.1200; "fortified place" is from c.1300; "place of imprisonment" is from late 14c. Wrestling sense is from 1713. No holds barred "with all restrictions removed" is first recorded 1942 in theater jargon but is ultimately from wrestling. Telephoning sense is from c.1964, from expression hold the line, warning that one is away from the receiver, 1912.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for hold down



  1. To have narcotics for sale
  2. To have narcotics in one's possession (1930s+ Narcotics)

Related Terms

on hold

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with hold down

hold down

Also,keep down. Limit, restrain, as in Please hold down the noise. [ First half of 1500s ]
Also see: keep down
Work at or discharge one's duties satisfactorily, as in He managed to hold down two jobs at the same time. [ ; 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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