Meaning of “keep” in the English Dictionary

"keep" in British English

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uk /kiːp/ us /kiːp/ kept, kept

keep verb (CONTINUE TO HAVE)

A2 [ T ] to have or continue to have in your possession:

Do you want this photograph back or can I keep it?
Keep medicines in a locked cupboard (= store them there).
See also

[ T ] to own and manage a small shop:

My uncle kept a little tobacconist's in Gloucester.

B2 [ T ] If you keep animals, you own and take care of them, but not in your home as pets:

[ T ] US to watch and care for someone's children while their parents are away:

Jody will keep the children while I shop.
keep your promise/word

B2 to do what you have told someone that you would do:

I made a promise to you and I intend to keep it.
keep an appointment

to go to a meeting or event that has been arranged:

She phoned to say she couldn't keep her appointment.
keep a diary, an account, a record, etc.

B2 to make a regular record of events or other information so that you can refer to it later:

I've kept a diary for twelve years now.
Keep an account of how much you're spending.
keep a secret

B1 to not tell anyone a secret that you know

keep time

(of a watch or clock) to show the correct time:

Does your watch keep good time?
keep goal

to be the player who defends your team's goal by trying to prevent players from the other team scoring goals

More examples

  • I always keep a copy of any official or important letters that I send off.
  • If you keep valuables in your house, lock them away somewhere safe.
  • I'm going to sort these old books into those to be kept and those to be thrown away.
  • He shaved off his beard but kept his moustache.
  • As part of their divorce settlement, Geoff agreed to let Polly keep the house.

keep verb (STAY)

A2 [ L only + adj, T ] to (cause to) stay in a particular place or condition:

I wish you'd keep quiet.
I like to keep busy.
Keep left (= stay on the road to the left) at the traffic lights.
Can you keep the dog outside, please?
[ + obj + adj ] Close the door to keep the room warm.
The noise from their party kept me awake half the night.
keep sth quiet

to not tell people about something:

They managed to keep the school's problems quiet for a while.
You're a qualified skiing instructor? You kept that quiet!

More examples

  • Biscuits will stay crisp if you keep them in an airtight container.
  • I keep my socks in the bottom drawer.
  • Plants keep cool during the summer by evaporating water from their leaves.
  • The poor things were kept in small cages without room to move.
  • Could you keep quiet while I'm on the phone, please?

keep verb (CONTINUE DOING)

B1 [ I + -ing verb ] also keep on to continue doing something without stopping, or to do it repeatedly:

He keeps trying to distract me.
I keep on thinking I've seen her before somewhere.
I kept hoping that he'd phone me.
keep going

to continue in the same way as before:

If things keep going like this, we'll have to close the business.

to continue to do something or to live normally in a difficult situation:

Sometimes it was hard to keep going, but we did it for the children's sake.
keep sb going

to help someone to continue doing something or living normally, especially in a difficult situation:

It was my friends that kept me going through all this.

informal to prevent someone from getting too hungry when they have to wait to eat a meal:

Have a piece of fruit to keep you going.

More examples

  • She's got a secret admirer who keeps sending her gifts.
  • She kept telling herself that nothing was wrong.
  • They were laughing at him because he kept falling off his bike.
  • I've called him several times but I keep getting the engaged tone.
  • I don't like those watches that keep beeping every hour.

keep verb (DELAY)

B1 [ T ] to delay someone or prevent them from doing something:

He's very late - what's keeping him?
[ + -ing verb ] I'm so sorry to keep you waiting.
She kept me talking on the phone for half an hour.
I hope I'm not keeping you up (= preventing you from going to bed).

[ I ] If you say that news or information for someone can keep, you mean that you can tell it to them later:

"I must tell you something." "Can't it keep? I'm in a hurry!"
Whatever your news is, it will keep.

More examples

  • She kept me waiting for hours.
  • What's keeping her from just asking him?
  • She kept me sitting in the kitchen while she talked to him.
  • Try not to keep mother waiting.
  • He kept me working all evening.


uk /kiːp/ us /kiːp/

(Definition of “keep” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"keep" in American English

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us /kip/ past tense and past participle kept /kept/

keep verb (POSSESS)

[ T ] to be in or continue to be in someone’s possession:

Can I keep this photo?
"Keep the change," she told the driver.
We keep aspirin in the kitchen (= have it there for future use).

[ T ] If you keep a diary or record, you write about events or record information.

keep verb (DO)

[ T ] to do something you promised or had scheduled:

I kept my promise.
Did she keep her appointment?
Can you keep a secret (= not tell other people)?

keep verb (STAY)

to stay or cause to stay or continue in a particular place, direction, or condition:

[ L ] keep left
[ L ] keep quiet
[ L ] It’s hard to keep cool in this weather.
[ T ] Sorry to keep you waiting.

keep verb (CONTINUE DOING)

[ T ] to continue doing something without stopping, or to do it repeatedly:

I keep thinking I’ve seen her somewhere before.

keep verb (STAY FRESH)

[ I ] (of food) to stay fresh and in good condition:

Milk keeps longer in the refrigerator.

(Definition of “keep” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"keep" in Business English

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uk /kiːp/ us kept, kept

[ T ] to have or continue to have something, and not lose it or have to give it back to somebody:

There is going to be a reorganization, but all the staff in the department will keep / their jobs.
On arrival, you will be given an information pack, which is yours to keep.
Please keep all invoices relating to the sale.

[ T ] to have available or for sale:

We always keep a good supply of the most popular magazines.

[ T ] to store something in a particular place:

Where do we keep the items that are not on display?
They kept his details on file for future use.

[ I or T ] to stay, or make something stay, in a particular place or condition:

When there's a crisis at work, it's important for managers to keep calm and be supportive.
keep sth moving/working/operating You must keep the assembly line moving at a steady rate.
The bank's policy is to keep interest rates low.

[ T ] also keep on to continue to do something, or to do something again and again:

He kept missing deadlines.
keep (on) doing sth We kept on working long after everyone else had gone home.

[ T ] to own and manage a small store:

His father kept a candy store in this neighborhood.

[ I ] if food keeps, it stays fresh and in good condition:

This variety of apple keeps well.
keep an account/a record/a note

to make a record of events or other information so that you can refer to it later:

We keep a record of every sale in this database.
Always keep an account of how much you're spending.
keep an appointment

to go to a meeting or event that has been arranged:

She phoned to say she couldn't keep her appointment.
keep sth to yourself

to not tell other people about something:

My boss asked me to keep the information to myself until she could announce it formally.
keep sth under control

to check something, and make sure that it stays within a certain limit:

You must ensure that production costs are kept under control.

(Definition of “keep” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)