Definition of keep something back in US English:

keep something back

phrasal verb

  • 1Retain or withhold something.

    ‘the father kept back $5 for himself’
    • ‘They have always been told that insurance companies kept back some profits from the good years to compensate for the bad ones.’
    • ‘Martin said some pupils had still not received their report cards, which were being kept back because they had failed to pay their school fees.’
    • ‘Emergency services made arrangements with garages for supplies to be kept back specially for their vehicles.’
    • ‘Although this was the amount of rations laid down by law some of the shady crews often kept back food for to sell when they reached shore.’
    • ‘The profit kept back for the firm, after tax, was just £4.48m.’
    • ‘District councillors have blamed central government cutbacks for the rise, as newly introduced funding ‘ceilings’ mean money has been kept back from many local councils.’
    • ‘So far everything we've kept back will have a place in the next house, even if only once a year, like Christmas decorations.’
    • ‘Patrick Scott, York's director of education, said it was tempting to assume funding was being kept back, but he suspected the truth was more complicated.’
    • ‘When the pasta is ready, drain through a colander - keeping back a bit of the water - and tip immediately onto the egg yolk- and Parmesan mix, and ensuring that 1-2 tbsp of the cooking water goes with it.’
    • ‘The blunder was made in calculating how much of the grant should go to schools and how much kept back for administration.’
    reserve, keep in reserve, put by, save, save up, store up, put aside, lay aside, set aside, hoard, treasure
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    1. 1.1 Decline to disclose something.
      • ‘You know, you have to watch the behaviors, too, and see if they seem to be keeping something back.’
      • ‘I have a feeling they're keeping something back for a second series.’
      • ‘And yet, and yet… something of yourself should always be kept back in the cop game.’
      • ‘He denied he kept back the Ernst and Young report because he did not agree with some of its findings.’
      • ‘He has also discovered, through his relationship with Moore and their subsequent break-up, that he needs to keep something back.’
      • ‘Sorry mum, every daughter keeps a few things back y'know…’
      • ‘And even if directors were found to have wrongly kept back information they could not be fined, Sir Howard said.’
      • ‘I've kept this post back for a long time and altered a few key details, just in case my employers think they can identify us and use this blog as a stick with which to beat me.’
      conceal, keep secret, keep hidden, hide, withhold, suppress, keep quiet about, not tell, not reveal, not divulge, hush up
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    2. 1.2 Prevent tears from flowing.
      • ‘I stepped back from her, blinking hard to keep my tears back and walked towards the car.’
      • ‘I tried to speak but when I tried to explain I was choking to keep my tears back.’
      • ‘I closed my eyes and desperately tried to keep the tears back.’
      • ‘She stared blankly at the empty chair across from her while trying to fight a losing battle of keeping her tears back.’
      • ‘I chewed on the inside of my cheek to keep the tears back.’
      • ‘She stayed silent, trying to keep her tears back.’
      • ‘‘You shouldn't have done that,’ I said quietly, trying to keep the tears back, afraid of seeing Chris again.’
      • ‘She bit her lip gently, trying to keep the tears back.’
      • ‘Tears were stinging in my eyes and I struggled to keep them back.’
      • ‘I concentrated on keeping the tears back and said nothing.’