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)