use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

keep (kēp)
Share:
v. kept, keep·ing, keeps
v.tr.
1. To retain possession of: kept the change; must keep your composure.
2. To have as a supply: keep spare parts in case of emergency.
3.
a. To provide (a family, for example) with maintenance and support: "There's little to earn and many to keep" (Charles Kingsley).
b. To support (a mistress or lover) financially.
4. To put customarily; store: Where do you keep your saw?
5.
a. To supply with room and board for a charge: keep boarders.
b. To raise: keep chickens.
6. To maintain for use or service: an urbanite who didn't keep a car.
7. To manage, tend, or have charge of: Keep the shop while I'm away.
8. To preserve (food).
9. To cause to continue in a state, condition, or course of action: tried to keep the patient calm.
10.
a. To maintain records or entries in: keep a yearly diary.
b. To enter (data) in a book: keep financial records.
11.
a. To detain: was kept after school.
b. To restrain: kept the child away from the stove; kept the crowd back with barriers.
c. To prevent or deter: tried to keep the ice from melting.
d. To refrain from divulging: keep a secret.
e. To save; reserve: keep extra money for emergencies.
12. To adhere or conform to; follow: keep late hours.
13. To be faithful to; fulfill: keep one's word.
14. To celebrate; observe: keep the Sabbath.
v.intr.
1. To remain in a state or condition; stay: keep in line; keep quiet; kept well.
2. To continue to do: keep on talking; keep guessing.
3. To remain fresh or unspoiled: The dessert won't keep.
4. To restrain oneself; hold oneself back: I couldn't keep from eavesdropping.
n.
1. Care; charge: The child is in my keep for the day.
2. The means by which one is supported: earn one's keep.
3.
a. The stronghold of a castle.
b. A jail.
Phrasal Verbs:
keep at
To persevere in work or an action.
keep down
1. To prevent from growing, accomplishing, or succeeding: keep the revolutionaries down.
2. To hold under control or at a reduced level: Keep your voice down.
3. To refrain from vomiting: Although seasick, I managed to keep my food down.
keep off
To stay away from.
keep to
To adhere to: keep to the original purpose.
keep up
1. To maintain in good condition: kept up the property.
2. To persevere in; carry on: We asked her to stop talking, but she kept it up. To preserve or sustain: kept up the appearance of friendship.
3. To continue at the same level or pace: The snow kept up all day.
4. To continue to pay off (a financial obligation).
5. To match one's competitors, colleagues, or neighbors in success or lifestyle: couldn't keep up with his friends who went into business.
6. To remain adequately informed: loved to keep up on the gossip.
Idioms:
for keeps
1. For an indefinitely long period: gave the ring to me for keeps.
2. Seriously and permanently: We're separating for keeps.
keep an eye on
1. To watch over attentively; mind.
2. To watch closely or carefully: keep your eye on the ball.
keep an eye out
To be watchful.
keep a stiff upper lip
To be courageous or stoic in the face of adversity.
keep company
1. To carry on a courtship: a couple who kept company but never married.
2. To socialize or associate: keeps company with some tough thugs.
keep (one's) chin up
To be stalwart, courageous, or optimistic in the face of difficulty.
keep (one's) eyes open/peeled
To be on the lookout.
keep (one's) nose clean Informal
To stay out of trouble.
keep pace
To stay even with others, as in a contest.
keep (someone) company
To accompany or remain with.
keep the wolf from the door
To avoid the privation and suffering resulting from a lack of money: Both spouses had to work in order to keep the wolf from the door.
keep time
1. To indicate the correct time.
2. Music To maintain the tempo or rhythm.
keep to (oneself)
1. To shun the company of others: She kept to herself all morning.
2. To refrain from divulging: He kept the news to himself.

[Middle English kepen, from Old English cēpan, to observe, seize.]

Synonyms: keep, retain, withhold, reserve
These verbs mean to have and maintain in one's possession or control. Keep is the most general: We received a few offers but decided to keep the house. Retain means to continue to hold, especially in the face of possible loss: Though unhappy, he retained his sense of humor. Withhold implies reluctance or refusal to give, grant, or allow: The tenant withheld his rent until the owner fixed the boiler. To reserve is to hold back for the future or for a special purpose: The farmer reserved two acres for an orchard. See Also Synonyms at observe.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.