keep (v.)

Middle English kēpen, from late Old English cepan (past tense cepte) "to seize, hold; seek after, desire," also "to observe or carry out in practice; look out for, regard, pay attention to," from Proto-Germanic *kopjan, which is of uncertain origin. Old English cepan was used c. 1000 to render Latin observare, so perhaps it is related to Old English capian "to look" (from Proto-Germanic *kap-), which would make the basic sense "to keep an eye on, see to it."

The word prob. belonged primarily to the vulgar and non-literary stratum of the language; but it comes up suddenly into literary use c. 1000, and that in many senses, indicating considerable previous development. [OED]

The senses exploded in Middle English: "to guard, defend" (12c.); "restrain (someone) from doing something" (early 13c.); "take care of, look after; protect or preserve (someone or something) from harm, damage, etc." (mid-13c.); "preserve, maintain, carry on" a shop, store, etc. (mid-14c.); "prevent from entering or leaving, force to remain or stay" (late 14c.); "preserve (something) without loss or change," also "not divulge" a secret, private information, etc., also "to last without spoiling" (late 14c.); "continue on" (a course, road, etc.), "adhere to" a course of action (late 14c.); "stay or remain" (early 15c.); "to continue" (doing something) (mid-15c.). It is used to translate both Latin conservare "preserve, keep safe" and tenere "to keep, retain."

From 1540s as "maintain for ready use;" 1706 as "have habitually in stock for sale." Meaning "financially support and privately control" (usually in reference to mistresses) is from 1540s; meaning "maintain in proper order" (of books, accounts) is from 1550s.

To keep at "work persistently" is from 1825; to keep on "continue, persist" is from 1580s. To keep up is from 1630s as "continue alongside, proceed in pace with," 1660s as "maintain in good order or condition, retain, preserve," 1680s as "support, hold in an existing state." To keep it up "continue (something) vigorously" is from 1752. To keep to "restrict (oneself) to" is from 1711. To keep off (trans.) "hinder from approach or attack" is from 1540s; to keep out (trans.) "prevent from entering" is from early 15c.

keep (n.)

mid-13c., "care or heed in watching," from keep (v.). Meaning "innermost stronghold or central tower of a castle" is from 1580s; OED says this is perhaps a translation of Italian tenazza, the notion being "that which keeps" (someone or something). The sense of "food required to keep a person or animal" is attested from 1801 (to earn (one's) keep is from 1885). For keeps "completely, for good" is American English colloquial, from 1861, probably from the notion of keeping one's winnings in games such as marbles.

updated on May 21, 2019

Definitions of keep from WordNet
keep (v.)
cause to continue in a certain state, position, or activity; e.g., `keep clean';
The students keep me on my toes
Synonyms: maintain / hold
keep (v.)
continue a certain state, condition, or activity;
Synonyms: continue / go on / proceed / go along
keep (v.)
retain possession of;
She kept her maiden name after she married
Can I keep my old stuffed animals?
Synonyms: hold on
keep (v.)
stop (someone or something) from doing something or being in a certain state;
His snoring kept me from falling asleep
Synonyms: prevent
keep (v.)
conform one's action or practice to;
keep appointments
she never keeps her promises
We kept to the original conditions of the contract
Synonyms: observe
keep (v.)
stick to correctly or closely;
The pianist kept time with the metronome
I cannot keep track of all my employees
keep count
Synonyms: observe / maintain
keep (v.)
look after; be the keeper of; have charge of;
He keeps the shop when I am gone
keep (v.)
maintain by writing regular records;
keep a diary
keep notes
Synonyms: maintain
keep (v.)
supply with room and board;
He is keeping three women in the guest cottage
keep boarders
keep (v.)
allow to remain in a place or position or maintain a property or feature;
Our grant has run out and we cannot keep you on
The family's fortune waned and they could not keep their household staff
We kept the work going as long as we could
Synonyms: retain / continue / keep on
keep (v.)
supply with necessities and support;
There's little to earn and many to keep
Synonyms: sustain / maintain
keep (v.)
fail to spoil or rot;
These potatoes keep for a long time
Synonyms: stay fresh
keep (v.)
behave as expected during of holidays or rites;
Synonyms: observe / celebrate
keep (v.)
maintain in safety from injury, harm, or danger;
May God keep you
Synonyms: preserve
keep (v.)
he keeps bees
She keeps a few chickens in the yard
keep (v.)
retain rights to;
keep open the possibility of a merger
keep my seat, please
keep my job for me while I give birth
Synonyms: keep open / hold open / save
keep (v.)
store or keep customarily;
Where do you keep your gardening tools?
keep (v.)
have as a supply;
I always keep batteries in the freezer
She keeps a sixpack and a week's worth of supplies in the refrigerator
keep food for a week in the pantry
keep (v.)
maintain for use and service;
I keep a car in the countryside
She keeps an apartment in Paris for her shopping trips
Synonyms: maintain
keep (v.)
hold and prevent from leaving;
The student was kept after school
keep (v.)
prevent the action or expression of;
keep your cool
Synonyms: restrain / keep back / hold back
keep (v.)
prevent (food) from rotting;
keep potatoes fresh
Synonyms: preserve
keep (n.)
the financial means whereby one lives;
each child was expected to pay for their keep
Synonyms: support / livelihood / living / bread and butter / sustenance
keep (n.)
the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress;
Synonyms: donjon / dungeon
keep (n.)
a cell in a jail or prison;
Synonyms: hold
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