If you presume something, it means you act as though it's true before all the evidence is in. If you are presumed to be the fastest runner, don't get too cocky — that word implies that you haven't actually raced yet.

To presume is to take something for granted. The famous quote “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” comes from the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who ran into the explorer David Livingstone in the wilds of Africa in 1871. It’s funny because these were the only two white men known to be in that part of Africa at the time.

Definitions of presume
  1. verb
    take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof
    synonyms: assume, take for granted
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    presuppose, suppose
    take for granted or as a given; suppose beforehand
    beg the question
    assume that the argument one is trying to prove is true, without arguing for it
    posit, postulate
    take as a given; assume as a postulate or axiom
    premise, premiss
    take something as preexisting and given
    type of:
    anticipate, expect
    regard something as probable or likely
  2. verb
    constitute reasonable evidence for
    “A restaurant bill presumes the consumption of food”
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    type of:
    bear witness, evidence, prove, show, testify
    provide evidence for
  3. verb
    take liberties or act with too much confidence
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    type of:
    act, behave, do
    behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself
  4. verb
    take upon oneself; act presumptuously, without permission
    synonyms: dare, make bold
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    type of:
    act, move
    perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)
Commonly confused words

assume / presume

Assume and presume both mean to believe something before it happens, but when you assume you're not really sure. If someone bangs on your door in the middle of the night, you might assume it's your crazy neighbor. If your neighbor knocks on your door every night at 6:30, at 6:29 you can presume she's coming over in a minute.

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