Nearby words

  1. keene's cement,
  2. keener,
  3. keening,
  4. keenly,
  5. keenness,
  6. keep a civil tongue in one's head,
  7. keep a low profile,
  8. keep a sharp lookout,
  9. keep a stiff upper lip,
  10. keep a straight face


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

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.

Related formskeep·a·ble, adjectivekeep·a·bil·i·ty, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for keep

British Dictionary definitions for keep


verb keeps, keeping or kept (kɛpt)

(tr) to have or retain possession of
(tr) to have temporary possession or charge ofkeep my watch for me during the game
(tr) to store in a customary placeI keep my books in the desk
to remain or cause to remain in a specified state or conditionkeep the dog quiet; keep ready
to continue or cause to continuekeep the beat; keep in step
(tr) to have or take charge or care ofkeep the shop for me till I return
(tr) to look after or maintain for use, pleasure, etcto keep chickens; keep two cars
(tr) to provide for the upkeep or livelihood of
(tr) to support financially, esp in return for sexual favourshe keeps a mistress in the country
to confine or detain or be confined or detained
to withhold or reserve or admit of withholding or reservingyour news will keep till later
(tr) to refrain from divulging or violatingto keep a secret; keep one's word
to preserve or admit of preservation
(tr sometimes foll by up) to observe with due rites or ceremoniesto keep Christmas
(tr) to maintain by writing regular records into 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
(tr) to associate with (esp in the phrase keep bad company)
(tr) to maintain in existenceto keep court in the palace
(tr) mainly British to have habitually in stockthis shop keeps all kinds of wool
how are you keeping? how are you?
keep tabs on informal to keep a watchful eye on
keep track of See track (def. 15)
keep time See time (def. 42)
keep wicket to play as wicketkeeper in the game of cricket
you can keep it informal I have no interest in what you are offering


living or supporthe 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 for keep

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

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

Idioms and Phrases with keep


In addition to the idioms beginning with keep

  • keep abreast of
  • keep a civil tongue in one's head
  • keep after
  • keep a low profile
  • keep an eye on
  • keep an eye out for
  • keep a sharp lookout
  • keep a stiff upper lip
  • keep a straight face
  • keep at
  • keep at arm's length
  • keep a weather eye out
  • keep back
  • keep body and soul together
  • keep company
  • keep cool
  • keep down
  • keep from
  • keep house
  • keeping up with the Joneses
  • keep in mind
  • keep in the dark
  • keep in touch
  • keep in with
  • keep it up
  • keep late hours
  • keep off
  • keep on
  • keep one's chin up
  • keep one's cool
  • keep one's distance
  • keep oneself to oneself
  • keep one's end up
  • keep one's eye on the ball
  • keep one's eyes open
  • keep one's fingers crossed
  • keep one's hand in
  • keep one's hands off
  • keep one's head
  • keep one's mouth shut
  • keep one's nose clean
  • keep one's nose to the grindstone
  • keep one's own counsel
  • keep one's powder dry
  • keep one's shirt on
  • keep one's temper
  • keep one's wits about one
  • keep one's word
  • keep pace
  • keep posted
  • keep quiet
  • keep tabs on
  • keep the ball rolling
  • keep the lid on
  • keep the peace
  • keep the wolf from the door
  • keep time
  • keep to
  • keep to oneself
  • keep track
  • keep under one's hat
  • keep under wraps
  • keep up
  • keep watch
  • keep your . . .

also see:

  • earn one's keep
  • finders keepers, losers weepers
  • for keeps
  • in keeping
  • (keep someone) in the dark
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.