the act of a person or thing that holds.
a section of land leased or otherwise tenanted, especially for agricultural purposes.
a company owned by a holding company.
Often holdings. legally owned property, especially stocks, bonds, or real estate.
holdings, Library Science. the entire collection of books, periodicals, and other materials in a library.
Sports. the illegal obstruction of an opponent, as in football, basketball, or ice hockey, by use of the hands, arms, or stick.

Nearby words

  1. holddown,
  2. holden,
  3. holder,
  4. holder in due course,
  5. holdfast,
  6. holding company,
  7. holding furnace,
  8. holding operation,
  9. holding paddock,
  10. holding pattern

Origin of holding

First recorded in 1175–1225, holding is from the Middle English word holding. See hold1, -ing1

Related formspre·hold·ing, noun



verb (used with object), held; held or (Archaic) hold·en; hold·ing.

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) hold·en; hold·ing.

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.

Origin of hold

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 formshold·a·ble, adjective

Synonym study

8. See have. 9. See contain. 11. See maintain.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for holding

British Dictionary definitions for holding



land held under a lease and used for agriculture or similar purposes
(often plural) property to which the holder has legal title, such as land, stocks, shares, and other investments
sport the obstruction of an opponent with the hands or arms, esp in boxing


Australian informal in funds; having money



verb holds, holding or held (hɛld)

to have or keep (an object) with or within the hands, arms, etc; clasp
(tr) to support or bearto hold a drowning man's head above water
to maintain or be maintained in a specified state or conditionto hold one's emotions in check; hold firm
(tr) to set aside or reservethey will hold our tickets until tomorrow
(when intr, usually used in commands) to restrain or be restrained from motion, action, departure, etchold that man until the police come
(intr) to remain fast or unbrokenthat cable won't hold much longer
(intr) (of the weather) to remain dry and brighthow long will the weather hold?
(tr) to keep the attention ofher singing held the audience
(tr) to engage in or carry onto hold a meeting
(tr) to have the ownership, possession, etc, ofhe holds a law degree from London; who's holding the ace of spades?
(tr) to have the use of or responsibility forto hold the office of director
(tr) to have the space or capacity forthe carton will hold only eight books
(tr) to be able to control the outward effects of drinking beer, spirits, etche can hold his drink well
(often foll by to or by) to remain or cause to remain committed tohold him to his promise; he held by his views in spite of opposition
(tr; takes a clause as object) to claimhe holds that the theory is incorrect
(intr) to remain relevant, valid, or truethe old philosophies don't hold nowadays
(tr) to keep in the mindto hold affection for someone
(tr) to regard or consider in a specified mannerI hold him very dear
(tr) to guard or defend successfullyhold the fort against the attack
(intr) to continue to gohold on one's way
(sometimes foll by on) music to sustain the sound of (a note) throughout its specified durationto hold on a semibreve for its full value
(tr) computing to retain (data) in a storage device after copying onto another storage device or onto another location in the same deviceCompare clear (def. 49)
(tr) to be in possession of illegal drugs
hold for or hold good for to apply or be relevant tothe same rules hold for everyone
holding thumbs Southern African 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 or 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 influenceshe 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 opponenta 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 Formsholdable, adjective

Word Origin for hold

Old English healdan; related to Old Norse halla, Gothic haldan, German halten




the space in a ship or aircraft for storing cargo

Word Origin for hold

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

Word Origin and History for holding
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with holding


In addition to the idioms beginning with hold

  • hold a candle to, not
  • hold against
  • hold a grudge
  • hold a gun to someone's head
  • hold all the aces
  • hold at bay
  • hold back
  • hold court
  • hold down
  • hold everything
  • hold forth
  • hold good
  • hold it
  • hold no brief for
  • hold off
  • hold on
  • hold one's breath
  • hold one's end up
  • hold one's fire
  • hold one's head high
  • hold one's horses
  • hold one's own
  • hold one's peace
  • hold one's temper
  • hold one's tongue
  • hold on to
  • hold on to your hat
  • hold out
  • hold out on
  • hold over
  • hold someone's feet to the fire
  • hold still for
  • hold sway over
  • hold the bag
  • hold the fort
  • hold the line
  • hold the phone
  • hold the purse strings
  • hold to
  • hold true
  • hold up
  • hold water
  • hold with
  • hold your

also see:

  • (hold) at bay
  • bear (hold) a grudge
  • get hold of
  • hang (hold) on to your hat
  • have a hold over
  • lay hold of
  • leave holding the bag
  • no holds barred
  • on hold
  • (hold the) purse strings
  • stand (hold) one's ground
  • take hold
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.