Promises, Promises

These words are about contracts we enter into, either with others or ourselves, and all the determination it takes to keep one's promises. Here you'll find many synonyms for "trustworthy" and "upstanding" but also the dark side of such determination. It's not always easy to make a promise and keep it, but hopefully words like steadfast and stalwart have enough of a noble ring to them to make us all fight the good fight. Here are 15 words about promises and words that describe those who keep them, as well as some brief etymologies of the words.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. assurance
    a binding commitment to do or give or refrain from something
    “I hope this is the time they finally do something, rather than offer more words and empty assurances.”
    —Time Jan 11, 2015
    From Old French asseurance. The English word dates from the 14th Century, but starting around the 18th Century, it began to have a negative connotation and be associated with haughtiness and presumption.
  2. covenant
    a signed written agreement between two or more parties
    These loans have a slew of protections for lenders: They have affirmative covenants, which say what companies must do.
    —Forbes Sep 26, 2014
    From Latin convenire "come together." Often used in biblical translations to characterize the relationship between God and man.
  3. indenture
    formal agreement as to terms of a debt
    The Apprentice.—The apprentice paid the master a premium, and was indentured to him for a period of years, usually seven.
    —Reginald Arthur Bray
    The word originally referred to the physical document formalizing the relationship, and the practice of cutting apart the contract in a zig-zag pattern, creating two halves that would match uniquely in case there was a question as to who was indentured to whom. From Old French endenteure, "indentation."
  4. resolute
    firm in purpose or belief
    “A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things.”
    —New York Times Dec 4, 2014
    This word has a semantic history that one might not expect. It originally meant "dissolved, of loose structure" seemingly the opposite of what it means today. This meaning derives from Latin resolvere "to untie, unfasten, loose, loosen." The word acquired its current meaning through a metaphorical extension involving taking things apart to get to the essence or truth of the matter.
  5. allegiance
    the act of binding yourself to a course of action
    While those members, in theory, are supposed to check their national allegiances at the door, in practice that’s not the case, says Werker.
    —Forbes Dec 1, 2014
    From Old French legeance "loyalty of a liege-man to his lord", where a liege-man was "a vassal sworn to the service and support of a lord, who in turn is obliged to protect him."
  6. fidelity
    the quality of being faithful
    He’s respected in the community, he has wisdom, a sense of justice and a fidelity to the rule of law.
    —Washington Post Dec 4, 2014
    From Latin fidelis "faithful, true, trusty, sincere."
  7. steadfast
    marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable
    Steadfast in his belief that “architecture only exists when there is poetic emotion,” he designed landmarks of enduring significance.
    —Washington Post Dec 18, 2014
    From Old English stede " place, position, standing, stability" and Old English fæst " firmly fixed, constant, secure."
  8. adamant
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, or reason
    This traditional was, Mavis said, Pops’s favorite song when he was a boy; he was adamant that it be included on the record.
    —The New Yorker Jan 13, 2015
    From Latin adamantem " adamant, hardest iron, steel" and Greek adamas " unbreakable, inflexible."
  9. tenacious
    stubbornly unyielding
    A tenacious protest movement has spread beyond its initial student base to embrace discontented middle-class and blue-collar residents.
    —New York Times Oct 20, 2014
    From Latin tenax " holding fast ( see steadfast ) gripping, clingy, firm", from tenere "to hold."
  10. intransigent
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, or reason
    Facing what seems like intransigent opposition, each side has dug in.
    —Seattle Times Jan 7, 2015
    From Spanish los intransigentes which is in "not" and transigente "compromising", together meaning "those not coming to agreement" and referring to a particular political party in late 19th Century Spain. Ultimately from Latin transigere "come to an agreement, accomplish."
  11. indomitable
    impossible to subdue
    A singularly focused and avant-garde talent, Ms. Streb bends the messy rush of risk to her indomitable will.
    —New York Times Sep 9, 2014
    From Late Latin indomitabilis , "untameable."
  12. staunch
    firm and dependable especially in loyalty
    A petition to grant hoteliers the right to block personal Wi-Fi on their premises is being met with staunch opposition from the biggest technology companies.
    —The Verge Dec 23, 2014
    From Old French estanche "firm, watertight." the word entered English in the 1400s but it wasn't until the 1620s that people were described using the modern definition.
  13. stalwart
    Many party stalwarts looked anguished as they voted against their consciences to support the military courts on Tuesday; some wept openly.New York Times (Jan 10, 2015)
    Scottish variant of stalworth, "resolute, determined."
  14. fortitude
    strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity
    The fortitude and patience it demands are immense, and yet here was this resilient man, fighting his way back with such good humor and grace.
    —Washington Post Aug 5, 2014
    From Latin fortitudo "strength, force, firmness." From Latin fortis "strong, brave."
  15. perseverance
    the act of persisting
    The main reason the 170-minute film eventually got made was the perseverance of producer Uschi Reich, who, according to Graf, "fought a long fight."
    —Los Angeles Times Jan 8, 2015
    From Latin perseverantia "steadfastness, constancy."

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