View synonyms for keep


[ keep ]

verb (used with object)

, kept, keep·ing.
  1. to hold or retain in one's possession; hold as one's own:

    If you like it, keep it. Keep the change.

  2. to hold or have the use of for a period of time:

    You can keep it for the summer.

  3. to hold in a given place; store:

    You can keep your things in here.

  4. to maintain (some action), especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise, etc.:

    to keep watch; to keep step.

  5. to cause to continue in a given position, state, course, or action:

    to keep a light burning; to keep a child happy.

  6. to maintain in condition or order, as by care and labor:

    He keeps his car in good condition.

    Synonyms: preserve

  7. to maintain in usable or edible condition; preserve:

    If you want to keep meat for a long time, freeze it.

  8. to hold in custody or under guard, as a prisoner:

    They kept him in jail.

    Synonyms: confine, detain

    Antonyms: release

  9. to cause to stay in a particular place; prevent or restrain from departure:

    The work kept her at the office.

  10. to have regularly in stock and for sale:

    to keep a large supply of machine parts.

  11. to maintain in one's service or for one's use or enjoyment:

    to keep a car and chauffeur.

  12. to associate with:

    She keeps bad company.

  13. to have the care, charge, or custody of:

    She keeps my dog when I travel.

  14. to refrain from disclosing; withhold from the knowledge of others:

    to keep a secret.

  15. to withhold from use; reserve; save:

    I'll keep this toy until you learn to behave. Keep the good wine for company.

  16. to hold back or restrain:

    They kept the child from talking. Nothing can keep him from doing it.

  17. to maintain control of; regulate:

    to keep the peace; to keep your temper.

  18. to maintain by writing:

    to keep a diary.

  19. to record (business transactions, daily occurrences, etc.) regularly:

    to keep records; to keep a list of visitors.

  20. to observe; pay obedient regard to (a law, rule, promise, etc.).
  21. to conform to; follow; fulfill:

    to keep one's word.

  22. to observe (a season, festival, etc.) with formalities or rites:

    to keep Christmas.

  23. to maintain or carry on, as an establishment, business, etc.; manage.
  24. to guard; protect:

    He kept her from harm.

  25. to maintain or support:

    It costs more each year to keep a house.

  26. to support or contribute to the support of in return for sexual or other favors.
  27. to take care of; tend:

    to keep a vegetable garden.

  28. to raise (livestock):

    These farmers keep goats and cattle.

  29. to remain in (a place, spot, etc.):

    Please keep your seats.

  30. to maintain one's position in or on:

    He kept the job.

  31. to continue to follow (a path, track, course, etc.).
  32. to maintain in active existence, as an assembly, court, or fair.

verb (used without object)

, kept, keep·ing.
  1. to continue in an action, course, position, state, etc.:

    to keep in sight; to keep going.

  2. to remain, or continue to be, as specified:

    to keep cool.

  3. to remain or stay in a particular place:

    to keep indoors.

  4. to continue unimpaired or without spoiling:

    The food will keep on ice.

  5. to admit of being reserved for a future occasion:

    I have more to tell you, but it will keep.

  6. to keep oneself or itself as specified (followed by away, back, off, out, etc.):

    Keep off the grass.

  7. to restrain oneself; refrain (usually followed by from ):

    Try to keep from smiling.


  1. board and lodging; subsistence; support:

    to work for one's keep.

  2. the innermost and strongest structure or central tower of a medieval castle.

    Synonyms: stronghold, dungeon, donjon

  3. keeps, (used with a singular verb) a game of marbles in which the players keep the marbles they have won.

verb phrase

    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.

  1. 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.

    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.

  2. to continue; persist:

    If you keep on singing they'll ask you to leave.

    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 onwith. to stay informed:

      to keep up on current events.

    5. to match one's friends, neighbors, business associates, etc., in success, affluence, etc.
  3. to persist in; be steadfast:

    You'll never master your French unless you keep at it.

    1. to adhere to; conform to:

      She keeps to the rules.

    2. to confine oneself to:

      to keep to one's bed.


/ kiːp /


  1. tr to have or retain possession of
  2. tr to have temporary possession or charge of

    keep my watch for me during the game

  3. tr to store in a customary place

    I keep my books in the desk

  4. to remain or cause to remain in a specified state or condition

    keep ready

    keep the dog quiet

  5. to continue or cause to continue

    keep in step

    keep the beat

  6. tr to have or take charge or care of

    keep the shop for me till I return

  7. tr to look after or maintain for use, pleasure, etc

    to keep chickens

    keep two cars

  8. tr to provide for the upkeep or livelihood of
  9. tr to support financially, esp in return for sexual favours

    he keeps a mistress in the country

  10. to confine or detain or be confined or detained
  11. to withhold or reserve or admit of withholding or reserving

    your news will keep till later

  12. tr to refrain from divulging or violating

    to keep a secret

    keep one's word

  13. to preserve or admit of preservation
  14. trsometimes foll byup to observe with due rites or ceremonies

    to keep Christmas

  15. tr to maintain by writing regular records in

    to keep a diary

  16. whenintr, foll by in, on, to, etc to stay in, on, or at (a place or position)

    please keep your seats

    keep to the path

  17. tr to associate with (esp in the phrase keep bad company )
  18. tr to maintain in existence

    to keep court in the palace

  19. tr to have habitually in stock

    this shop keeps all kinds of wool

  20. how are you keeping?
    how are you?
  21. keep tabs on informal.
    to keep a watchful eye on
  22. keep track of
    See track
  23. keep time
    See time
  24. keep wicket
    to play as wicketkeeper in the game of cricket
  25. you can keep it informal.
    I have no interest in what you are offering


  1. living or support

    he must work for his keep

  2. archaic.
    charge or care
  3. Also calleddungeondonjon the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress
  4. informal.
    1. completely; permanently
    2. for the winner or possessor to keep permanently
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Other Words From

  • keepa·ble adjective
  • keepa·bili·ty noun
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Word History and Origins

Origin of keep1

First recorded 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”
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Word History and Origins

Origin of keep1

Old English cēpan to observe; compare Old Saxon kapōn to look, Old Norse kōpa to stare
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. 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.

  2. keep books, to maintain financial records.
  3. 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.

  4. keep time. time ( def 50 ).
  5. keep track of. track ( def 38 ).
  6. keep tab / tabs on. tab 1( def 15 ).

More idioms and phrases containing keep

  • earn one's keep
  • finders keepers, losers weepers
  • for keeps
  • in keeping
  • (keep someone) in the dark
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Synonym Study

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.
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Example Sentences

Domestically, the prime minister maintains the dubious line that he is the only man who can keep the still-fragile peace.

“Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV,” she continued.

I think if you keep trying to do things the same way it becomes diminishing returns.

Ney said McDonnell needs to “keep a stiff lip” and stay in close contact with family members.

I keep meeting more and more people where that seems to be the case.

She was growing accustomed to like shocks, but she could not keep the mounting color back from her cheeks.

And it was no light task, then, for six hundred men to keep the peace on a thousand miles of frontier.

He will keep the sayings of renowned men, and will enter withal into the subtilties of parables.

Keep closely covered with a bell glass and, in a few weeks, more or less, the baby Ferns will start to put in an appearance.

My thought was to keep pushing in troops from "W" Beach until the enemy had fallen back to save themselves from being cut off.


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More About Keep

What is a basic definition of keep?

Keep means to hold on to something and not let it leave your possession. Keep can also mean to store something in a certain place. And keep can mean to continue an action or to remain in a certain state. Keep has many other senses as a verb and a few as a noun and is used in a large number of idioms.

If you keep something, it means that you are making sure it stays yours and doesn’t leave your possession. For example, if you don’t give money to someone, then you are keeping it. The past tense of keep is kept.

  • Real-life examples: Most people prefer to keep money rather than give it away or spend it. If a childhood toy means a lot to you, you probably want to keep it and not throw it away. If nobody claims a lost item, then the store or police will usually let the finder keep it.
  • Used in a sentence: I’m going to keep this old hat I found rather than throw it away. 

Keep can also mean to store something in a certain area.

  • Real-life examples: Almost everyone keeps perishable food in a refrigerator. You might keep your clothes on the floor, although your mom wants them in a dresser. People keep money in a safe or bank account. The police keep prisoners in jail.
  • Used in a sentence: Aylia keeps her priceless jewelry in a lockbox.

Keep is also used to mean to continue doing something. This sense of keep usually implies that the action will never stop until something else happens. For example, a leaky sink will keep, that is, continue, dripping until someone fixes it.

  • Real-life examples: A business will keep making money as long as it can. Most pets will keep staring at you until you either finish eating or give them some food. The moon will keep rotating around Earth unless something stops it.
  • Used in a sentence: Sasha is persistent and will keep hitting that piñata until candy comes out. 

In a similar sense, keep can also mean to remain in a certain state or condition.

  • Real-life examples: People store ice cream in a freezer so it keeps cold. Most people find it hard to keep calm during a crisis. People wear jackets or use umbrellas to keep dry during a rainstorm.
  • Used in a sentence: The men gathered around the fire to keep warm.

Where does keep come from?

The first records of keep come from before the year 1000. It ultimately comes from the Old English verb cēpan, meaning “to observe.”

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to keep?

  • keepable (adjective)
  • keepability (noun)

What are some synonyms for keep?

What are some words that share a root or word element with keep

What are some words that often get used in discussing keep?

How is keep used in real life?

Keep is an extremely common word that is often used to mean to hold on to something or to continue to do something.

Try using keep!

Is keep used correctly in the following sentence?

I keep a spare tire in the trunk of my car in case I ever need one.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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