Definition of promise in English:



  • 1A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.

    ‘what happened to all those firm promises of support?’
    [with clause] ‘he took my fax number with the promise that he would send me a drawing’
    [with infinitive] ‘I did not keep my promise to go home early’
    • ‘He ruined her with his empty, broken promises and his declarations of imaginary friendship.’
    • ‘Educated and ambitious, they are lured here by the promise of material acquisition.’
    • ‘Later, corruption and broken election promises are almost certain.’
    • ‘We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety.’
    • ‘All the promises, all the assurances, were broken.’
    • ‘With the clock ticking, regeneration bosses have reiterated promises of support to help inexperienced organisations draw up strong applications to access the funds.’
    • ‘Who is going to be taken in by promises or assurances in election time?’
    • ‘We have been hearing the same promises and assurances for more than 10 years now.’
    • ‘However, they insist that the government's promises have been broken.’
    • ‘The promise of the reward was too much of an enticement for the migrant workers to resist.’
    • ‘Like many others, he was lured away by promises of a richer life.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the international community does not always back up their generous promises of help with firm commitments.’
    • ‘The people nurse deep alienation with the political system and cynicism about the democratic process due to their sad experience of broken promises and forgotten assurances.’
    • ‘The Government has angered tenant farmers by not keeping a pre-election promise to introduce a retirement scheme.’
    • ‘Having to see him and listen to him make empty promises makes me so sad.’
    • ‘Vague promises of unspecified future salvation just don't cut it in today's market.’
    • ‘It has failed to receive firm guarantees or promises from either side.’
    • ‘A solemn promise was also made at the end.’
    • ‘Despite promises of support for people who say they cannot afford to pay tuition fees, the Government has still been accused of pricing higher education out of many people's reach.’
    • ‘Most important, information exchange in the private sector is regulated by contract law, and firms that break their promises can pay a price.’
    word of honour, word, assurance, pledge, vow, guarantee, oath, bond, undertaking, agreement, commitment, contract, covenant, compact
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    1. 1.1The quality of potential excellence.
      ‘he showed great promise even as a junior officer’
      • ‘Of course, the flip side of such promise is the potential for humiliation.’
      • ‘He was a natural leader, and he began his reign with great promise and potential.’
      • ‘Continuing research in this field holds great promise for the future.’
      • ‘Finally, the model emphasizes leadership like never before, demanding that effective leaders reach their promise and potential.’
      • ‘Despite the tremendous potential and promise of genomics, it is very difficult to predict when its benefits for health will be realised.’
      • ‘Narratives of progress and development are rooted deeply in the potential and promise of the West's best ideals and traditions.’
      • ‘Although they all start out with great promise and potential, they invariably end up a disappointment and we hear nothing more about them.’
      • ‘Most consolidation plays failed to realize both their promise and potential.’
      • ‘His early death was regretted since his music shows unfulfilled promise.’
      • ‘In a statement to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, quoted by Reuters, Pardew described the country as a nation of great promise and potential.’
      • ‘Merger mania during the 1996-2001 period failed to realize much of its promise and potential.’
      • ‘Although she had troubles on bars and beam, she showed great promise for the future.’
      • ‘New approaches show promise, potentially bringing a proof of the Riemann hypothesis within reach.’
      • ‘The majority of childhood prodigies never fulfill their early promise.’
      • ‘For him, this odd little satellite traveling around an evocative solar star represents promise and potential.’
      • ‘He's erratic and foul-prone, but he shows too much promise and low-post scoring potential to be ignored.’
      • ‘Polley is packed with promise and potential.’
      • ‘To them, he is indicative of a crucial historical phase in Brazil's development and he embodies their country's unfulfilled promise and wasted potential.’
      • ‘On the contrary, molecular medicine holds remarkable promise for improving quality of life and delivering health care more equitably.’
      • ‘If it's obvious from your resume that you have significant promise and potential, chances are you will receive an invitation to interview for the job.’
      potential, ability, aptitude, capability, capacity, potentiality
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    2. 1.2[in singular]An indication that something specified is expected or likely to occur.
      ‘the promise of peace’
      • ‘Six weeks ago, a flurry of announcements saw the promise of peace dangle tantalisingly before some of Africa's most wretched countries.’
      • ‘Today sees the conclusion of the regatta with three races and the promise of improving weather.’
      • ‘The promise of prosperity and peace that heralded the end of the Cold War is a distant memory.’
      • ‘Every indication points to the promise of continued improvements in the cost and performance of storage, depending on the technology involved.’
      • ‘For children like these, the promise of peace in Angola may come too late.’
      • ‘The dialogue of diplomacy then carries the threat of war rather than the promise of peace.’
      • ‘Following a fine and warm weekend and with the promise of more sunshine to come, hundreds of people thronged York Railway Station.’
      • ‘The promise of a fine indoor season had been curtailed during a training break in Florida.’
      • ‘It holds within it the promise of peace and security, and he smiles.’
      • ‘Day three started with the promise of very fine weather but we were met with a delivery of a sudden shower as we followed a narrow dirt trail.’
      indication, hint, suggestion, sign
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  • 1[reporting verb] Assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.

    [with infinitive] ‘he promised to forward my mail’
    [with clause] ‘she made him promise that he wouldn't do it again’
    [with direct speech] ‘“I'll bring it right back,” she promised’
    [with two objects] ‘he promised her the job’
    • ‘It has therefore been necessary to redefine what was meant by the job they promised to complete.’
    • ‘The reduction in my expenses in a certain way was something that I definitely promised to do if I got this money.’
    • ‘You'll notice I'm not suggesting anyone should promise to lose weight, spend more time with loved ones, write a book or phone mother more often.’
    • ‘The president promised to abolish emergency laws and create an electoral system where all parties have a chance to participate.’
    • ‘Magazines base their ad rates on how many eyes they can promise to deliver.’
    • ‘He had left his job and had promised in his resignation letter to repay all the money.’
    • ‘Bosses have promised to find alternative jobs within the company for as many people as possible.’
    • ‘The Federal Government is promising to ‘reduce significantly’ the problem of family benefit overpayments.’
    • ‘For the unemployed, he is promising to create 200,000 jobs a year.’
    • ‘I definitely don't promise to stop hoping that you'll bury the hatchet already.’
    • ‘I'm not promising we'll win it, but I can assure all the supporters that we're determined to give it our best shot.’
    • ‘An inspector arrived later and promised to have the job done last Friday.’
    • ‘Politicians promise what they want, not what they can do.’
    • ‘"He won't hurt you, " Ally promised with a smile.’
    • ‘He pointed out that many governments have promised to abolish it but nothing has happened to date.’
    • ‘He had also promised not to tell his parents.’
    • ‘The government has already promised to have 25,000 officers in place by 2008.’
    • ‘After an assessment, these advisors promise to deliver strategic suggestions to move your career to the next level.’
    • ‘The government promises to keep up its side of the bargain only if the defendant cooperates.’
    • ‘The Labour manifesto also promised a review of the postal services act.’
    give one's word, swear, pledge, vow, undertake, guarantee, assure, contract, engage, give an undertaking, give an assurance, commit oneself, bind oneself, swear an oath, take an oath, covenant
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    1. 1.1archaic [with object]Pledge (someone, especially a woman) to marry someone else; betroth.
      ‘I've been promised to him for years’
  • 2[with object] Give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation)

    ‘forthcoming concerts promise a feast of music from around the world’
    [with infinitive] ‘it promised to be a night that all present would long remember’
    • ‘The crackdown is not aimed at organised firework shows and tonight promises a feast of spectacular events.’
    • ‘The election is already promising to be a turning point in Italian politics.’
    • ‘Mr Holland said that he was looking forward to what promised to be the best festival yet.’
    • ‘For the profession it promises the most radical change they have faced, with talk of 24-hour cover, extended working hours and new grades of consultant.’
    • ‘Last year a record number of 20,000 spectators enjoyed the show and this year's ‘Green is Clean’ theme promises an even better event.’
    • ‘A three-day extravaganza, this festival promises something for everyone.’
    • ‘This play promises a surprise finale that will shock not only the audience, but the actors as well.’
    • ‘Even more than the transfer of power at the top of the party, this change promises fundamental transformation of the political order itself.’
    • ‘NW Chamber Orchestra's first concert promises an exciting new season’
    • ‘The tandoori food festival promises the most delectable of your favourite cuisine.’
    • ‘The forthcoming concert promises to be entertaining and varied, with music from all styles and genres.’
    • ‘Each merger promised to deliver bigger and better results for both customers and shareholders.’
    • ‘So with that kind of forward power it promises to be an afternoon's hard work ahead.’
    indicate, give an indication of, give every indication of, lead one to expect, give good grounds for expecting, point to, denote, signify, be a sign of, be evidence of, show signs of, hint at, suggest, give hope of, hold out hopes of, bespeak, presage, be a presage of, augur, herald, bode, foreshadow, portend
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    1. 2.1(of a person, publication, institution, etc.) announce (something) as being expected to happen.
      ‘in its pre-Christmas trading statement it promised record results’
      [with two objects] ‘we're promised more winter weather tonight’
      • ‘The forecast for the weekend promises warmer weather, with temperatures expected to reach 10 degrees today and 12 degrees tomorrow.’
      • ‘Forecasters were promising a record snowfall in Boston, Massachusetts, and up to a metre of snow on the Cape Cod peninsula, southeast of Boston.’
      • ‘It's gone now, but the weather promises future freezing.’
      • ‘Cuba is on the bounce-back this year, with Virgin Atlantic promising direct flights to Havana in the summer.’
      • ‘He recently went on record to promise a frank report from the 12-year inquiry into collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.’
    2. 2.2Contemplate the pleasant expectation of.
      ‘he tidied up the room, promising himself an early night’
      • ‘Now is the time to lose all that weight you've been promising yourself.’
      • ‘It looks like I'll be able to justify having the small roast-potato on Christmas Day that I've been promising myself for months.’
      • ‘I had paid but little attention to the itinerary promising myself I would just sit back, enjoy, and let others do the organising!’
      • ‘As an adult, now is the time to go on that diet you've been promising yourself since January.’
      • ‘Not having a cigarette when you've promised yourself one leaves your body feeling orphaned and betrayed.’
      • ‘This might be the moment to get that new phone number you've been promising yourself, and then neglect to pass on the details to me.’
      • ‘So we've promised ourselves a trip to the garden centre tomorrow, with the intention of getting a couple of trays of cheap and cheerful annuals to fill out the empty bits and to bridge us over until the perennials catch up.’
      • ‘Have you been promising yourself that you will take up something new to get you out during the summer, but then somehow you always manage to end up in the pub?’
      • ‘You will have promised yourself and possibly others that you are going to get fit, eat better, give up something or change the way you deal with some element of life.’
      • ‘We promised ourselves one of these devices as soon as my computer is established in its new home, wherever and whatever that is, but I reckoned it was a good time to buy it now, for all sorts of reasons.’
      • ‘You seem not quite ready yet, but promise yourself to expect something interesting in the future.’
      • ‘We had, though, always promised ourselves that we'd do something ‘special’ for the 25th.’
      • ‘Definitely flagging now, Penny and I stagger on to the Park Hyatt Hotel where we have promised ourselves a glass or two of wine to celebrate our mammoth and epic journey.’
      • ‘I've been promising myself for weeks that I will get out and get the garden tidied up ready for the winter but then I make excuses and do something else instead.’
      • ‘Just before the drawing the lots, she took a lot of time going through the showroom, floor by floor, promising herself that she would be back on a shopping spree.’
      • ‘For a few months I kept promising myself I would ‘investigate’ the ghostly phenomenon and nail the suspect, but never got down to it for some reason or the other.’
      • ‘Eventually, the idea goes, it won't feel like you're following a program at all, but rather, instinctively performing the good habits you've always promised yourself you'd develop.’
      • ‘We enjoyed it so much that we promised ourselves that we would come back.’
      • ‘I keep promising myself that I'll learn British Sign Language so that I can speak with my hands.’
      • ‘I've been promising myself I will, soon, some day, for the last 12 years.’


  • i promise (or i promise you)

    • informal Used for emphasis, especially so as to reassure, encourage, or threaten someone.

      ‘oh, I'm not joking, I promise you’
      • ‘No, there will be no risk of me getting in the way, I promise you.’
      • ‘Now it may seem selfish, but once you have holidayed in this stunningly beautiful country, I promise you'll be loath to share its secrets with anyone.’
      • ‘This is not an appeal to your green listeners, Amy, I promise you.’
      • ‘The exercise part is so simple, I promise you, you'll want to do it everyday, and I've never put that in print before.’
      • ‘So I promise you, you're not going to hear any naughty words from him.’
      • ‘You'll never watch Jeremy Paxman's on-screen performances in quite the same way again, I promise you.’
      • ‘I'm not one of those apathetic stay-at-home voters that the Labour Party is so worried about, I promise you.’
      • ‘Not the best body language to display, I promise you.’
      • ‘If you want to threaten me, I promise you that no member of your local will work here for the next 60 years.’
      • ‘No, I promise it's not the makings of a classical joke, as my postman can testify.’
  • promise (someone) the earth (or moon)

    • Make extravagant promises to someone that are unlikely to be fulfilled.

      ‘interactive technology titillates, promises the earth, but delivers nothing’
      • ‘We have a council that promises the earth but provides road calming and roundabouts.’
      • ‘With only a few days remaining there will be higher temptations by many people to lie by promising them the moon.’
      • ‘At the same time he was promising me the moon, he was making plans to see her!’
      • ‘Each and every single person you encounter promises you the moon, the stars and perfect love.’
      • ‘Having been promised the moon, we wound up dealing with polluted water, smudgy air, declining heath and income disparities of the worst kind.’
      • ‘I wouldn't lay down on that thing even if you promised me the moon.’
      • ‘Do something for them before we get another party promising the earth and getting elected at your, and our, expense.’
      • ‘The people to avoid are the ones that are promising you the earth and you know there's nothing behind it.’
      • ‘While some parties are talking about Muslim rights, others are promising them the moon.’
      • ‘The director, who declined to be named, said some start out by promising the earth, but once the workers are in the door, bosses have the freedom to dictate the terms of their employment.’
  • promises, promises

    • informal Used to indicate that the speaker is skeptical about someone's stated intention to do something.

      • ‘When it's there I will say thank you very much but I have got to the stage where it just seems like promises, promises.’


Late Middle English: from Latin promissum something promised neuter past participle of promittere put forth, promise from pro- forward + mittere send.