agreement or conformity in things or elements associated together: His actions are not in keeping with his words.
the act of a person or thing that keeps; observance, custody, or care.
maintenance or keep.
holding, reserving, or retaining.

Origin of keeping

First recorded in 1250–1300, keeping is from the Middle English word keping. See keep, -ing1

Synonyms for keeping

Synonym study

2. See custody.



verb (used with object), kept, keep·ing.

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, keep·ing.

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.

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 formskeep·a·ble, adjectivekeep·a·bil·i·ty, noun

Synonyms for keep

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.

Antonyms for keep Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for keeping

Contemporary Examples of keeping

Historical Examples of keeping

British Dictionary definitions for keeping



conformity or harmony (esp in the phrases in or out of keeping)
charge or carevaluables in the keeping of a bank


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 keeping



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with keeping


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.