Language: Old English
Origin: cepan


1 verb
keep1 S1 W1 past tense and past participle kept

not change

[linking verb, transitive] to stay in a particular state, condition, or position, or to make someone or something do this
keep (somebody/something) warm/safe/dry etc
We huddled around the fire to keep warm.
keep calm/awake/sane etc
I was struggling to keep awake.
keep something clean/tidy
Keep your room tidy.
keep somebody busy/amused/occupied
some toys to keep the kids amused
You won't be able to keep it secret for ever.
Peter cycles to work to keep fit.
Don't keep us in suspense any longer!
keep (somebody/something) away/back/off/out etc
The police put up barriers to keep the crowds back.
If I were you, I'd keep away from that area at night.
a sign saying 'Danger: Keep out'
The little boy kept close to his mother.
keep (somebody) out of something
Keep him out of trouble.
You keep out of this, Mother (=do not get involved). It's no concern of yours.
How can I cut your hair if you won't keep still!
keep left/right (=stay to the left or right of a path or road as you move)
keep somebody/something doing something
Jane kept the engine running.

continue doing something

also keep on [intransitive] to continue doing something or to do the same thing many times
keep (on) doing something
I keep thinking about Joe, all alone in that place.
I keep telling you, but you won't listen!
She pretended not to hear, and kept on walking.
! Do not say 'keep up' doing something. Say keep doing something or keep on doing something.

not give back

[transitive] to have something and not give it back to the person who had it before:
You can keep it. I don't need it any more.

not lose

[transitive] to continue to have something and not lose it or get rid of it:
We decided to keep our old car instead of selling it.
I kept his letters for years.
In spite of everything, Robyn's managed to keep her sense of humor.

store something

[transitive always + adverb/preposition] to leave something in one particular place so that you can find it easily:
Where do you keep your tea bags?
George kept a bottle of whiskey under his bed.

make somebody stay in a place

[transitive always + adverb preposition] to make someone stay in a place, especially a prison or hospital:
He was kept in prison for a week without charge.

delay somebody

[transitive] to delay someone:
He should be here by now. What's keeping him?

do what you promised

[transitive] to do what you have promised or agreed to do
keep your word/promise
How do I know you'll keep your word?
patients who fail to keep their appointments

keep a secret

to not tell anyone about a secret that you know:
Can I trust you to keep a secret?

keep something quiet/keep quiet (about something)

to not say anything in order to avoid telling a secret or causing problems

keep a record/account/diary etc

to regularly record written information somewhere

keep going


keep (somebody) going

to have or to give someone enough hope and emotional strength to continue living and doing things, in a bad situation:
That woman's been through such a lot - I don't know how she keeps going.
Her letters were the only thing that kept me going while I was in prison.

keep (something) going

if you keep a business, institution, regular event etc going, you keep it open or make it continue to happen:
The library costs £5 million a year to run, and the council can't afford to keep it going.

keep going

to continue doing something difficult:
Persevere and keep going until you reach your ideal weight.

keep somebody going

if something keeps you going, it is enough to satisfy your need while you are waiting to get something bigger or better:
I'll have a biscuit to keep me going until dinner time.


[intransitive] if food keeps, it stays fresh enough to be eaten:
Eat the salmon because it won't keep till tomorrow.


[transitive] to own and look after animals:
We keep chickens and a couple of pigs.

stop other people from using something

[transitive] to stop other people from using something, so that it is available for someone [= save]:
Will you keep a seat for me?

keep somebody waiting

to make someone wait before you meet them or see them:
Sorry to keep you waiting - I got stuck in a meeting.

keep guard/watch

to guard a place or watch around you all the time


[transitive] British English old-fashioned to own a small business and work in it

provide somebody with things

[transitive] to provide someone with money, food etc:
He did not earn enough to keep a wife and children.
keep somebody in something
There's enough money there to keep you in champagne for a year!


[transitive] formal to guard or protect someone:
The Lord bless you and keep you.
His only thought was to keep the child from harm.

keep goal/wicket

to be the player in a team whose job is to protect the goal or wicket goalkeeper, wicket keeper
22 spoken

keep quiet

used to tell someone not to say anything or make any noise:
Keep quiet! I'm trying to watch the game.
23 spoken

how are you keeping?

used to ask if someone is well:
'Hi, Mark! How are you keeping?' 'Oh, not so bad.'
24 spoken

keep your hair/shirt on!

used to tell someone to be more calm, patient etc
25 spoken

somebody can keep something

used to say that you do not want or are not interested in something:
She can keep her wild parties and posh friends - I like the quiet life.
26 spoken

it'll keep

used to say that you can tell someone something or do something later:
'I don't have time to listen now.' 'Don't worry, it'll keep.'

keep at something

phrasal verb
1 spoken to continue to do something, although it is difficult or hard work:
I know it's hard, but keep at it! Don't give up!

keep somebody at something

to force someone to continue to work hard and not let them stop

keep back

phrasal verb

keep something back

to deliberately not tell someone all that you know about something:
I got the feeling he was keeping something back.

keep something ↔ back

to not show your feelings, even though you want to very much:
She was struggling to keep back the tears.

keep somebody ↔ back

to prevent someone from being as successful as they could be [= hold back]:
Fear and stereotypes have kept women back for centuries.

keep something ↔ back

especially British English to not give or pay something that you were going to give:
They kept back some of his wages to pay for the damage.

keep somebody/something ↔ down

phrasal verb
1 to prevent the size, cost, or quantity of something from increasing or being too great:
We need to keep costs down.
2 to succeed in keeping food in your stomach, instead of bringing it up again out of your mouth, when you are ill:
I could hardly keep anything down for about three days.
3 used to ask someone to make less noise:
Keep your voice down - she'll hear you!
Can you keep it down - I'm trying to work.
4 to prevent a group of people from becoming as successful and powerful as the other people in a society:
Plantation owners kept slaves down by refusing them an education.

keep from something

phrasal verb

keep (somebody/something) from something

to prevent someone from doing something or prevent something from happening
keep somebody from (doing) something
His ex-wife had kept him from seeing his children.
I hope I haven't kept you from your work.
keep something from doing something
Put the pizza in the bottom of the oven to keep the cheese from burning.
keep (yourself) from doing something
The play was so boring, I could hardly keep myself from falling asleep.

keep something from somebody

to prevent someone from knowing something, by deliberately not telling them about it [= withhold]:
The government had wanted to keep this information from the public.

keep somebody in

phrasal verb
1 to make someone stay in hospital because they are too ill to go home:
They kept her in overnight for observation.
2 British English to force someone to stay inside, especially as a punishment in school

keep in with somebody

phrasal verb
to try to stay friendly with someone, especially because this helps you:
It's a good idea to keep in with the boss.

keep off

phrasal verb

keep something ↔ off

to prevent something from touching or harming something:
She held an old piece of cloth over them both to keep the rain off.
keep something off something
How are we going to keep the flies off this food?

keep your hands off somebody/something

used to tell someone not to touch someone or something:
Keep your hands off me!

keep (somebody) off something

to not eat, drink, or take something that is bad for you, or to stop someone else from eating, drinking, or taking it:
Keep off fatty foods.
a programme aimed at keeping teenagers off drugs

keep off something

especially British English to avoid talking about a particular subject, especially so that you do not upset someone [= avoid, stay off]

keep something ↔ off

if you keep weight off, you do not get heavier again after you have lost weight
6 British English if rain keeps off, it does not fall

keep on

phrasal verb
1 to continue doing something, or to do something many times
keep on doing something
You just have to keep on trying.

keep somebody ↔ on

to continue to employ someone, especially for longer than you had planned:
If you're good they might keep you on after Christmas.
3 British English informal to talk continuously about something or repeat something many times, in a way that is annoying [= go on]
keep on about
There's no need to keep on and on about it!
keep on at
If I didn't keep on at the children, they'd never do their homework.

keep to something

phrasal verb
1 to stay on a particular road, course, piece of ground etc:
It's best to keep to the paths.
2 to do what has been decided in an agreement or plan, or what is demanded by law:
Keep to the speed limits.

keep to the point/subject etc

to talk or write only about the subject you are supposed to be talking about

keep something to something

to prevent an amount, degree, or level from becoming higher than it should:

keep something to yourself

to not tell anyone about something:
I'd appreciate it if you kept it to yourself.

keep to yourself

also keep yourself to yourself British English to live a very quiet private life and not do many things that involve other people

keep up

phrasal verb

keep something ↔ up

to continue doing something:
I don't think I can keep this up any longer.
keep up the good work! (=continue to work hard and well)
2 if a situation keeps up, it continues without stopping or changing [= continue]:
How long can the economic boom keep up?
3 to go as quickly as someone else
keep up with
I had to walk fast to keep up with him.
4 to manage to do as much or as well as other people [≠ fall behind]
keep up with
Jack's having trouble keeping up with the rest of the class.
keep up with the Joneses (=try to have the same new, impressive possessions that other people have)
5 to continue to read and learn about a particular subject, so that you always know about the most recent facts, products etc
keep up with
Employees need to keep up with the latest technical developments.

keep something ↔ up

to make something continue at its present level or amount, instead of letting it decrease:
NATO kept up the pressure on the Serbs to get out of Kosovo.
7 if one process keeps up with another, it increases at the same speed and by the same amount
keep up with
Food production is not keeping up with population growth.

keep something ↔ up

to continue to practise a skill so that you do not lose it:
I used to speak French, but I haven't kept it up.

keep somebody up

informal to prevent someone from going to bed:
I hope I'm not keeping you up.

keep your spirits/strength/morale etc up

to stay happy, strong, confident etc, by making an effort:
We sang as we marched, to keep our spirits up.

keep up appearances

to pretend that everything in your life is normal and happy even though you are in trouble, especially financial trouble

keep up with somebody

phrasal verb
to write to, telephone, or meet a friend regularly, so that you do not forget each other

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