keep [keep keeps kept keeping] verb, noun BrE [kiːp]
NAmE [kiːp]
verb (kept, kept BrE [kept]
; NAmE [kept]
1. intransitive, transitive to stay in a particular condition or position; to make sb/sth do this
+ adj. We huddled together to keep warm.
+ adv./prep. The notice said ‘Keep off (= Do not walk on) the grass’.
Keep left along the wall.
~ sb/sth + adj. She kept the children amused for hours.
~ sb/sth (+ adv./prep.) He kept his coat on.
Don't keep us in suspense — what happened next?
She had trouble keeping her balance.
~ sb/sth doing sth I'm very sorry to keep you waiting.  
2. intransitive to continue doing sth; to do sth repeatedly
~ doing sth Keep smiling!
~ on doing sth Don't keep on interrupting me!  
3. transitive ~ sb to delay sb
Syn: hold somebody up
You're an hour late— what kept you?  
4. transitive ~ sth to continue to have sth and not give it back or throw it away
Here's a five dollar bill— please keep the change.
I keep all her letters.  
5. transitive (especially BrE) to save sth for sb
~ sth for sb Please keep a seat for me.
~ sb sth Please keep me a seat.  
6. transitive ~ sth + adv./prep. to put or store sth in a particular place
Keep your passport in a safe place.  
7. transitive ~ sth (especially BrE) to own and manage a shop/store or restaurant
Her father kept a grocer's shop.  
8. transitive ~ sth to own and care for animals
to keep bees/goats/hens  
9. intransitive + adv./prep. (informal) used to ask or talk about sb's health
How is your mother keeping.
We're all keeping well.  
10. intransitive to remain in good condition
Finish off the pie— it won't keep.
(informal, figurative) ‘I'd love to hear about it, but I'm late already.’ ‘That's OK— it'll keep (= I can tell you about it later).’  
11. transitive ~ a secret | ~ sth secret (from sb) to know sth and not tell it to anyone
Can you keep a secret?
She kept her past secret from us all.  
12. transitive ~ your promise/word | ~ an appointment to do what you have promised to do; to go where you have agreed to go
She kept her promise to visit them.
He failed to keep his appointment at the clinic.  
13. transitive ~ a diary, an account, a record, etc. to write down sth as a record
She kept a diary for over twenty years.
Keep a note of where each item can be found.
I kept a weekly account of my workload and activities.  
14. transitive ~ sb/yourself to provide what is necessary for sb to live; to support sb by paying for food, etc
He scarcely earns enough to keep himself and his family.  
15. transitive (formal) to protect sb from sth
~ sb May the Lord bless you and keep you (= used in prayers in the Christian Church).
~ sb from sth His only thought was to keep the boy from harm.  
16. transitive ~ goal/wicket (BrE) (in football ( soccer ), hockey, cricket, etc.) to guard or protect the goal or wicket
see also goalkeeper, wicketkeeper
Rem: Most idioms containing keep are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms, for example keep house is at house.
Verb forms:
Word Origin:
late Old English cēpan ‘seize, take in’, also ‘care for, attend to’, of unknown origin.
keep verb
1. I, T
We managed to keep warm.
stay|formal remain
keep/stay/remain awake/calm/cheerful/cool/dry/fine/healthy/quiet/silent
keep/stay close/still/warm
stay/remain alert/alive/asleep/loyal/safe/the same/a secret/shut/sober/upright
2. T, I (especially spoken)
Keep smiling!
continue • • go on with sth/go on doing sth • • keep sth up/keep up with sth • • press ahead/on|especially spoken carry (sth) on • • stick with sb/sth
Opp: stop, Opp: give sth up
keep on/continue/go on/keep up/press ahead/carry on/stick with sth
keep/continue/go on/carry on/press ahead with doing sth
keep/continue/go on/carry on fighting/working/talking/improving sth/believing/building sth
3. T
I've kept all her letters.
hold onto sth • • save|formal retain
Opp: lose, Opp: throw sth away
keep/retain control (of sth)
still keep/hold onto/retain sth
Keep or retain? Retain is formal and not used in spoken English. It often suggests that the thing that you keep will be useful in the future. Keep is a more general word.
4. T (especially BrE)
I've kept two seats for us at the front.
save • • reserve • • hold
Opp: give sth up
keep/save/reserve/hold sth for sb/sth
keep/save/reserve/hold a seat/place for sb/sth
keep/save some food for sb
Keep, save or reserve? Reserve is used especially when sth is officially saved for sb/sth. Keep and save are more often used if sth is saved for you unofficially, for example by a friend.
5. T
Where do you keep the sugar?
store • • hoard • • stock up • • stockpile|informal stash
keep/store/hoard/stock up on/stockpile food
keep/store/stockpile weapons
keep/hoard/stash money
6. T
My aunt kept chickens in her back yard.
breed • • rear • • raise
keep/breed/rear sth for sth
keep/breed/rear/raise animals/cattle/horses/sheep
keep/breed/rear/raise sth in captivity
7. T
She kept her promise to visit them.
carry sth out • • stand by sth|AmE follow through|BrE, formal honour|AmE honor|especially journalism business deliver
Opp: break
keep/carry out/follow through on/honour/deliver on a promise
keep/stand by/follow through on/honour your word
keep to/stand by/follow through on/honour an agreement
keep to/carry out/stand by/follow through on a plan
Keep or honour? Honour is much more formal than keep in most cases. You can keep but not honour an appointment or engagement; you can honour but not keep sb's wishes.
8. T
Keep a record of your child's illnesses.
hold • • store|formal retain
keep/hold/store/retain information/data
keep/hold a record/records
still/no longer keep/hold/store/retain sth
9. T (BrE)
She doesn't earn enough to keep a family.
support • • provide for sb • • maintain
keep/support/provide for/maintain a family/children/wife/husband
keep/support/provide for/maintain yourself
Which word? You can provide for sb on a continuous basis or by making a large one-off payment. If you keep, support or maintain sb, you provide for them on a continuous basis over a period of time.
Example Bank:
Milk and cream should keep quite well in a fridge.
Don't keep us in suspense — what happened next?
I could not keep silent any longer.
I want to keep on with part-time work for as long as possible.
I wish you wouldn't keep on interrupting me!
I'm amazed that she keeps so cheerful.
I'm very sorry to keep you waiting.
I've kept all her letters.
I've kept two seats for us near the front.
If we all keep to the agreement there won't be any problems.
It was difficult for the team to keep to the plan.
Keep close to me.
My grandmother kept chickens in her back yard.
Residents are not allowed to keep pets.
Separate accounts must be kept for each different business activity.
She had trouble keeping her balance.
She handed me a ten dollar bill. ‘Here— keep the change.’
She needed to keep busy.
Sit down and keep calm!
The documents are all kept under lock and key.
The man in the shop said he'd keep it for me until Friday.
The notice said ‘Keep off the grass’.
This voucher should be kept. It will be accepted by the Inland Revenue as evidence of a Tax Credit.
Try to keep active in the cold weather.
Village clerks were unable to keep a proper record of deaths because they were so frequent.
We managed to keep dry by huddling in a doorway.
Where do you keep the sugar?
to keep bees/goats
At the time many working men did not earn enough to keep a wife and children.
He kept himself by giving private lessons.
I must go now. I've kept you from your dinner too long.
I need to work— I can't go on being a kept man.
I won't keep you long. I've just got a couple of quick questions.
You're an hour late— what kept you?
Idioms: for keeps keep going keep somebody going
Derived: keep at something keep away keep back keep down keep from something keep in with somebody keep off keep off something keep on keep out keep out of something keep somebody after keep somebody at something keep somebody away keep somebody back keep somebody down keep somebody from something keep somebody in keep somebody in something keep somebody off keep somebody off somebody keep somebody on keep somebody out keep somebody out of something keep somebody under keep somebody up keep something back keep something down keep something from somebody keep something from something keep something in keep something on keep something to yourself keep something up keep to something keep to yourself keep up keep up with somebody keep up with something keep yourself from something
1. uncountable food, clothes and all the other things that a person needs to live; the cost of these things
It's about time you got a job to earn your keep.
2. countable a large strong tower, built as part of an old castle
more at earn your keep at earn
Word Origin:
late Old English cēpan ‘seize, take in’, also ‘care for, attend to’, of unknown origin.
Example Bank:
He made his way up a flight of steep stairs and into the main keep of the castle.
It's about time you got a job to earn your keep.
See also: keep somebody after keep somebody back

WordNet Dictionary:
1. the financial means whereby one lives
- each child was expected to pay for their keep
- he applied to the state for support
- he could no longer earn his own livelihood
Syn: support, livelihood, living, bread and butter, sustenance
2. the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress
Syn: donjon, dungeon
3. a cell in a jail or prison
Syn: hold
1. keep in a certain state, position, or activity; e.g., "keep clean"
- hold in place
- She always held herself as a lady
- The students keep me on my toes
Syn: maintain, hold
2. continue a certain state, condition, or activity
- Keep on working!
- We continued to work into the night
- Keep smiling
- We went on working until well past midnight
Syn: continue, go on, proceed, go along
Ant: discontinue (for: continue)
(for: go on)
(for: go on)
(for: continue)
(for: continue)
- They keep moving
3. retain possession of
- Can I keep my old stuffed animals?
- She kept her maiden name after she married
Syn: hold on
Ant: lose
- We must prevent the cancer from spreading
- His snoring kept me from falling asleep
- Keep the child from eating the marbles
Syn: prevent
Ant: let (for: prevent)
- They keep him from writing the letter
5. conform one's action or practice to
- keep appointments
- she never keeps her promises
- We kept to the original conditions of the contract
Syn: observe
Ant: break
6. stick to correctly or closely
- The pianist kept time with the metronome
- keep count
- I cannot keep track of all my employees
Syn: observe, maintain
7. look after; be the keeper of; have charge of
- He keeps the shop when I am gone
- keep a diary
- maintain a record
- keep notes
Syn: maintain
9. supply with room and board
- He is keeping three women in the guest cottage
- keep boarders
- Sam cannot keep Sue
10. allow to remain in a place or position or maintain a property or feature
- We cannot continue several servants any longer
- She retains a lawyer
- The family's fortune waned and they could not keep their household staff
- Our grant has run out and we cannot keep you on
- We kept the work going as long as we could
- She retained her composure
- this garment retains its shape even after many washings
Syn: retain, continue, keep on
11. supply with necessities and support
- She alone sustained her family
- The money will sustain our good cause
- There's little to earn and many to keep
Syn: sustain, maintain
12. fail to spoil or rot
- These potatoes keep for a long time
Syn: stay fresh
- This food does keep well
13. behave as expected during of holidays or rites
- Keep the commandments
- celebrate Christmas
- Observe Yom Kippur
Syn: observe, celebrate
14. keep under control; keep in check
- suppress a smile
- Keep your temper
- keep your cool
Syn: restrain, keep back, hold back
15. maintain in safety from injury, harm, or danger
- May God keep you
Syn: preserve
16. raise
- She keeps a few chickens in the yard
- he keeps bees
17. retain rights to
- keep my job for me while I give birth
- keep my seat, please
- keep open the possibility of a merger
Syn: keep open, hold open, save
18. store or keep customarily
- Where do you keep your gardening tools?
19. have as a supply
- I always keep batteries in the freezer
- keep food for a week in the pantry
- She keeps a sixpack and a week's worth of supplies in the refrigerator
20. maintain for use and service
- I keep a car in the countryside
- She keeps an apartment in Paris for her shopping trips
Syn: maintain
21. hold and prevent from leaving
- The student was kept after school
22. prevent (food) from rotting
- preserved meats
- keep potatoes fresh
Syn: preserve

Webster's 1913 Dictionary:
v. t.1.To care; to desire.
[imp. & p. p. Kept (kĕpt); p. pr. & vb. n. Keeping.]
I kepe not of armes for to yelp [boast].
2.To hold; to restrain from departure or removal; not to let go of; to retain in one's power or possession; not to lose; to retain; to detain.
If we lose the field,
We can not keep the town.
That I may know what keeps me here with you.
If we would weigh and keep in our minds what we are considering, that would instruct us.
3.To cause to remain in a given situation or condition; to maintain unchanged; to hold or preserve in any state or tenor.
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal.
Keep a stiff rein, and move but gently on.
4.To have in custody; to have in some place for preservation; to take charge of.
The crown of Stephanus, first king of Hungary, was always kept in the castle of Vicegrade.
5.To preserve from danger, harm, or loss; to guard.
Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee.
6.To preserve from discovery or publicity; not to communicate, reveal, or betray, as a secret.
Great are thy virtues . . . though kept from man.
7.To attend upon; to have the care of; to tend.
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it.
In her girlish age, she kept sheep on the moor.
8.To record transactions, accounts, or events in; as, to keep books, a journal, etc.; also, to enter (as accounts, records, etc. ) in a book.
9.To maintain, as an establishment, institution, or the like; to conduct; to manage; as, to keep store.
Like a pedant that keeps a school.
Every one of them kept house by himself.
10.To supply with necessaries of life; to entertain; as, to keep boarders.
11.To have in one's service; to have and maintain, as an assistant, a servant, a mistress, a horse, etc.
I keep but three men and a boy.
12.To have habitually in stock for sale.
13.To continue in, as a course or mode of action; not to intermit or fall from; to hold to; to maintain; as, to keep silence; to keep one's word; to keep possession.
Both day and night did we keep company.
Within this portal as I kept my watch.
14.To observe; to adhere to; to fulfill; not to swerve from or violate; to practice or perform, as duty; not to neglect; to be faithful to.
I have kept the faith.
Him whom to love is to obey, and keep
His great command.
15.To confine one's self to; not to quit; to remain in; as, to keep one's house, room, bed, etc.; hence, to haunt; to frequent.
'Tis hallowed ground;
Fairies, and fawns, and satyrs do it keep.
16.To observe duly, as a festival, etc.; to celebrate; to solemnize; as, to keep a feast.
I went with them to the house of God . . . with a multitude that kept holyday.
To keep at arm's length
See under Arm, n.
To keep back
a - To reserve; to withhold.
b - To restrain; to hold back.
To keep company with
a - To frequent the society of; to associate with; as, let youth keep company with the wise and good.
b - To accompany; to go with; as, to keep company with one on a voyage; also, to pay court to, or accept attentions from, with a view to marriage.
To keep counsel
See under Counsel, n.
To keep down
a - To hold in subjection; to restrain; to hinder.
b - (Fine Arts) To subdue in tint or tone, as a portion of a picture, so that the spectator's attention may not be diverted from the more important parts of the work.
To keep good hours
to be customarily early (or late) in returning home or in retiring to rest.
To keep house
a - To occupy a separate house or establishment, as with one's family, as distinguished from boarding; to manage domestic affairs.
b - (Eng. Bankrupt Law) To seclude one's self in one's house in order to evade the demands of creditors.
To keep one's hand in
to keep in practice.
To keep open house
to be hospitable.
To keep the peace
(Law) to avoid or to prevent a breach of the peace.
To keep school
to govern, manage and instruct or teach a school, as a preceptor.
To keep a stiff upper lip
to keep up one's courage.
To keep term
a - (Eng. Universities) To reside during a term.
b - (Inns of Court) To eat a sufficient number of dinners in hall to make the term count for the purpose of being called to the bar.
To keep touch
See under Touch, n.
To keep under
to hold in subjection; hence, to oppress.
To keep up
a - To maintain; to prevent from falling or diminution; as, to keep up the price of goods; to keep up one's credit.
b - To maintain; to continue; to prevent from ceasing.
v. i.1.To remain in any position or state; to continue; to abide; to stay; as, to keep at a distance; to keep aloft; to keep near; to keep in the house; to keep before or behind; to keep in favor; to keep out of company, or out reach.
2.To last; to endure; to remain unimpaired.
If the malt be not thoroughly dried, the ale it makes will not keep.
3.To reside for a time; to lodge; to dwell.
Knock at his study, where, they say, he keeps.
4.To take care; to be solicitous; to watch.
Keep that the lusts choke not the word of God that is in us.
5.To be in session; as, school keeps to-day.
To keep from
to abstain or refrain from.
To keep in with
to keep on good terms with; as, to keep in with an opponent.
To keep on
to go forward; to proceed; to continue to advance.
To keep to
to adhere strictly to; not to neglect or deviate from; as, to keep to old customs; to keep to a rule; to keep to one's word or promise.
To keep up
to remain unsubdued; also, not to be confined to one's bed.
n.1.The act or office of keeping; custody; guard; care; heed; charge.
Pan, thou god of shepherds all,
Which of our tender lambkins takest keep.
2.The state of being kept; hence, the resulting condition; case; as, to be in good keep.
3.The means or provisions by which one is kept; maintenance; support; as, the keep of a horse.
Grass equal to the keep of seven cows.
I performed some services to the college in return for my keep.
4.That which keeps or protects; a stronghold; a fortress; a castle; specifically, the strongest and securest part of a castle, often used as a place of residence by the lord of the castle, especially during a siege; the dungeon. See Illust. of Castle.
The prison strong,
Within whose keep the captive knights were laid.
The lower chambers of those gloomy keeps.
I think . . . the keep, or principal part of a castle, was so called because the lord and his domestic circle kept, abode, or lived there.
5.That which is kept in charge; a charge.
Often he used of his keep
A sacrifice to bring.
6.(Mach.) A cap for retaining anything, as a journal box, in place.
To take keep
to take care; to heed.

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