keep / kēp/ • v. (past kept / kept/ ) [tr.] 1. have or retain possession of: my father would keep the best for himself. ∎ retain or reserve for use in the future: return one copy to me, keeping the other for your files. ∎ put or store in a regular place: the stand where her umbrella was kept. ∎ retain one's place in or on (a seat or saddle, the ground, etc.) against opposition or difficulty: are you able to keep your saddle? ∎ delay or detain; cause to be late: I won't keep you; I know you've got a busy evening. 2. continue or cause to continue in a specified condition, position, course, etc.: [intr.] she could have had some boyfriend she kept quiet about [tr.] she might be kept alive artificially by machinery. ∎ [intr.] continue doing or do repeatedly or habitually: he keeps going on about the murder. ∎ [intr.] (of a perishable commodity) remain in good condition: fresh ginger does not keep well. ∎ [tr.] make (someone) do something for a period of time: I have kept her waiting too long. 3. provide for the sustenance of (someone): he had to keep his large family in the manner he had chosen. ∎ provide (someone) with a regular supply of a commodity: the money should keep him in cigarettes for a week. ∎ own and look after (an animal) for pleasure or profit. ∎ own and manage (a shop or business). ∎ guard; protect: his only thought is to keep the boy from harm. ∎ support (someone, esp. a woman) financially in return for sexual favors: [as adj.] a kept woman. 4. honor or fulfill (a commitment or undertaking): I'll keep my promise, naturally. ∎ observe (a religious occasion) in the prescribed manner: today's consumers do not keep the Sabbath. ∎ pay due regard to (a law or custom). 5. make written entries in (a diary) on a regular basis: the master kept a weekly journal. ∎ write down as (a record): keep a note of the whereabouts of each item.• n. 1. food, clothes, and other essentials for living: working overtime to earn his keep. ∎ the cost of such items. 2. the strongest or central tower of a castle, acting as a final refuge.PHRASAL VERBS: keep to avoid leaving (a path, road, or place). ∎ adhere to (a schedule). ∎ observe (a promise). ∎ confine or restrict oneself to: nothing is more irritating than people who do not keep to the point.keep up move or progress at the same rate as someone or something else: often they had to pause to allow him to keep up. ∎ meet a commitment to pay or do something regularly: if you do not keep up with the payments, the loan company can make you sell your home.keep something up maintain or preserve something in the existing state; continue a course of action: keep up the good work. ∎ keep something in an efficient or proper state: the new owners could not afford to keep up the grounds. ∎ make something remain at a high level: he was whistling to keep up his spirits.
keep no more cats than will catch mice recommending efficiency and the ethic of steady work to justify one's place; proverbial saying, late 17th century.
keep your own fish-guts for your own sea-maws Scottish proverbial saying, early 18th century, meaning that any surplus product should be offered first to those in need who are closest to you; another version of charity begins at home.
keep your shop and your shop will keep you proverbial saying, early 17th century, recommending attention to what is essential to one's livelihood; in the 1937 film Every Day's a Holiday this saying was parodied by the American actress Mae West (1892–1980) as, ‘I always say, keep a diary and some day it'll keep you.’
why keep a dog and bark yourself? often used to advise against carrying out work which can be done for you by somebody else. The saying is recorded from the late 16th century.
See also a man is known by the company he keeps, three may keep a secret, keep the wolf from the door.
A. †seize, hold, watch (for); pay regard to, observe OE.;
B. take care of, guard XII; preserve, maintain; withhold, restrain XIV;
C. reside, dwell (in) XIV. Late OE. cēpan, pt. cēpte, of which no cogns. are known. Its sense-development has been infl. by its being used to render L. servare, with its comps. con-, ob-, præ-, reservare.
Hence sb. A. †care, heed; B. donjon of a castle XIII; C. act of keeping, being kept XVIII; sustenance XIX. (The origin of B is not certain.) keepsake thing kept for the SAKE of the giver XVIII; literary annual containing collections of tales, poems, etc., intended as a gift, common in early XIX.