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90s Slang You Should Know


[keep] /kip/
verb (used with object), kept, keeping.
to hold or retain in one's possession; hold as one's own:
If you like it, keep it. Keep the change.
to hold or have the use of for a period of time:
You can keep it for the summer.
to hold in a given place; store:
You can keep your things in here.
to maintain (some action), especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise, etc.:
to keep watch; to keep step.
to cause to continue in a given position, state, course, or action:
to keep a light burning; to keep a child happy.
to maintain in condition or order, as by care and labor:
He keeps his car in good condition.
to maintain in usable or edible condition; preserve:
If you want to keep meat for a long time, freeze it.
to hold in custody or under guard, as a prisoner:
They kept him in jail.
to cause to stay in a particular place; prevent or restrain from departure:
The work kept her at the office.
to have regularly in stock and for sale:
to keep a large supply of machine parts.
to maintain in one's service or for one's use or enjoyment:
to keep a car and chauffeur.
to associate with:
She keeps bad company.
to have the care, charge, or custody of:
She keeps my dog when I travel.
to refrain from disclosing; withhold from the knowledge of others:
to keep a secret.
to withhold from use; reserve; save:
I'll keep this toy until you learn to behave. Keep the good wine for company.
to hold back or restrain:
They kept the child from talking. Nothing can keep him from doing it.
to maintain control of; regulate:
to keep the peace; to keep your temper.
to maintain by writing:
to keep a diary.
to record (business transactions, daily occurrences, etc.) regularly:
to keep records; to keep a list of visitors.
to observe; pay obedient regard to (a law, rule, promise, etc.).
to conform to; follow; fulfill:
to keep one's word.
to observe (a season, festival, etc.) with formalities or rites:
to keep Christmas.
to maintain or carry on, as an establishment, business, etc.; manage.
to guard; protect:
He kept her from harm.
to maintain or support:
It costs more each year to keep a house.
to support or contribute to the support of in return for sexual or other favors.
to take care of; tend:
to keep a vegetable garden.
to raise (livestock):
These farmers keep goats and cattle.
to remain in (a place, spot, etc.):
Please keep your seats.
to maintain one's position in or on:
He kept the job.
to continue to follow (a path, track, course, etc.).
to maintain in active existence, as an assembly, court, or fair.
verb (used without object), kept, keeping.
to continue in an action, course, position, state, etc.:
to keep in sight; to keep going.
to remain, or continue to be, as specified:
to keep cool.
to remain or stay in a particular place:
to keep indoors.
to continue unimpaired or without spoiling:
The food will keep on ice.
to admit of being reserved for a future occasion:
I have more to tell you, but it will keep.
to keep oneself or itself as specified (followed by away, back, off, out, etc.):
Keep off the grass.
to restrain oneself; refrain (usually followed by from):
Try to keep from smiling.
board and lodging; subsistence; support:
to work for one's keep.
the innermost and strongest structure or central tower of a medieval castle.
keeps, (used with a singular verb) a game of marbles in which the players keep the marbles they have won.
Verb phrases
keep at, to persist in; be steadfast:
You'll never master your French unless you keep at it.
keep back,
  1. to hold in check; restrain:
    The dikes kept back the floodwaters.
  2. to stay away from:
    The crowds would not keep back from the barrier.
  3. to refuse to reveal:
    The prisoner was keeping back vital information.
keep down,
  1. to hold under control or at a reduced or acceptable level:
    to keep your voice down.
  2. to prevent from going up or increasing:
    to keep prices down.
keep in with, to stay in someone's favor; be on good terms with:
They are social climbers who make certain to keep in with all the right people.
keep on, to continue; persist:
If you keep on singing they'll ask you to leave.
keep to,
  1. to adhere to; conform to:
    She keeps to the rules.
  2. to confine oneself to:
    to keep to one's bed.
keep up,
  1. to maintain an equal rate of speed, activity, or progress with another or others.
  2. to persevere; continue.
  3. to maintain the good condition of; keep in repair.
  4. Also, keep up on/ stay informed:
    to keep up on current events.
  5. to match one's friends, neighbors, business associates, etc., in success, affluence, etc.
for keeps, Informal.
  1. under the stipulation that one keeps one's winnings.
  2. with serious intent or purpose.
  3. finally; permanently:
    They decided to settle the argument for keeps.
keep books, to maintain financial records.
keep tab / tabs on. tab1 (def 15).
keep time. time (def 50).
keep to oneself,
  1. to remain aloof from the society of others.
  2. to hold (something) as secret or confidential:
    I'll tell you only if you promise to keep it to yourself.
keep track of. track (def 38).
Origin of keep
before 1000; Middle English kepen, Old English cēpan to observe, heed, watch, await, take; perhaps akin to Old English gecōp proper, fitting, capian to look, Old Norse kōpa to stare
Related forms
keepable, adjective
keepability, noun
1. Keep, reserve, retain, withhold refer to having and holding in possession. Keep (a common word) and retain (a more formal one) agree in meaning to continue to have or hold, as opposed to losing, parting with, or giving up: to keep a book for a week. To reserve is to keep for some future use, occasion, or recipient, or to hold back for a time: to reserve judgment. To withhold is generally to hold back altogether: to withhold help. 6. preserve. 8. detain, confine. 41. donjon, dungeon, stronghold.
8. release. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for keep back
Historical Examples
  • These dreams are the solace of poverty; they keep back the tears in the eyes of the young and the hungry.

  • They twitched a bit, to keep back with some effort what she had on her mind.

    The Rich Little Poor Boy Eleanor Gates
  • The business, however, pressed; and to keep back these but too just claimants was her present most fervent desire.

    Camilla Fanny Burney
  • He was unable to keep back a few hearty and soul-satisfying oaths.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • To my surprise the journey did not seem to last half an hour, and half the time I could not keep back the tears from my eyes.

  • Roosevelt called to him to keep back, but the Indian paid no attention.

  • She closed her lips tightly, to keep back the rising sobs, and regarded him with questioning, fearful eyes.

    No Clue James Hay
  • "keep back, gentlemen; keep back, please," he said in a low tone.

    The New Tenant E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • To get into a panic and keep back anything is the greatest mistake.

  • In spite of her efforts, Perrine could not keep back her sobs.

    Nobody's Girl Hector Malot
British Dictionary definitions for keep back

keep back

verb (adverb) often foll by from
(transitive) to refuse to reveal or disclose
to prevent, be prevented, or refrain from advancing, entering, etc


verb keeps, keeping, kept (kɛpt)
(transitive) to have or retain possession of
(transitive) to have temporary possession or charge of: keep my watch for me during the game
(transitive) to store in a customary place: I keep my books in the desk
to remain or cause to remain in a specified state or condition: keep the dog quiet, keep ready
to continue or cause to continue: keep the beat, keep in step
(transitive) to have or take charge or care of: keep the shop for me till I return
(transitive) to look after or maintain for use, pleasure, etc: to keep chickens, keep two cars
(transitive) to provide for the upkeep or livelihood of
(transitive) to support financially, esp in return for sexual favours: he keeps a mistress in the country
to confine or detain or be confined or detained
to withhold or reserve or admit of withholding or reserving: your news will keep till later
(transitive) to refrain from divulging or violating: to keep a secret, keep one's word
to preserve or admit of preservation
(transitive) sometimes foll by up. to observe with due rites or ceremonies: to keep Christmas
(transitive) to maintain by writing regular records in: to keep a diary
when intr, foll by in, on, to, etc. to stay in, on, or at (a place or position): please keep your seats, keep to the path
(transitive) to associate with (esp in the phrase keep bad company)
(transitive) to maintain in existence: to keep court in the palace
(transitive) (mainly Brit) to have habitually in stock: this shop keeps all kinds of wool
how are you keeping?, how are you?
(informal) keep tabs on, to keep a watchful eye on
keep track of, See track (sense 15)
keep time, See time (sense 42)
keep wicket, to play as wicketkeeper in the game of cricket
(informal) you can keep it, I have no interest in what you are offering
living or support: he must work for his keep
(archaic) charge or care
Also called dungeon, donjon. the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress
  1. completely; permanently
  2. for the winner or possessor to keep permanently
Word Origin
Old English cēpan to observe; compare Old Saxon kapōn to look, Old Norse kōpa to stare
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 keep back



late Old English cepan "to seize, hold," also "to observe," from Proto-Germanic *kopijanan, but with no certain connection to other languages. It possibly is related to Old English capian "to look," from Proto-Germanic *kap- (cepan was used c.1000 to render Latin observare), which would make the basic sense "to keep an eye on."

The word prob. belongs primarily to the vulgar and non-literary stratum of the language; but it comes up suddenly into literary use c.1000, and that in many senses, indicating considerable previous development. [OED]
Sense of "preserve, maintain" is from mid-14c. Meaning "to maintain in proper order" is from 1550s; meaning "financially support and privately control" (usually in reference to mistresses) is from 1540s. Related: Kept; keeping.


mid-13c., "care or heed in watching," from keep (v.). Meaning "innermost stronghold of a tower" is from 1580s, perhaps a translation of Italian tenazza, with a notion of "that which keeps" (someone or something); the sense of "food required to keep a person or animal" is attested from 1801. For keeps "completely, for good" is American English colloquial, from 1861.



mid-13c., "care or heed in watching," from keep (v.). Meaning "innermost stronghold of a tower" is from 1580s, perhaps a translation of Italian tenazza, with a notion of "that which keeps" (someone or something); the sense of "food required to keep a person or animal" is attested from 1801. For keeps "completely, for good" is American English colloquial, from 1861.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with keep back

keep back

see: hold back
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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