Keep vs. Stay: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 16, 2023
"Keep" generally refers to maintaining a condition or possession, while "Stay" means to remain in a place or position.
"Keep" implies holding onto, maintaining, or preserving something, be it a physical object, a condition, or a promise. "Stay", however, is more about remaining in a particular location or state without moving or changing.
"Keep" can also mean to continue doing something, as in keeping writing. "Stay", on the other hand, implies halting progress or movement, as in staying still.
When using "keep", there's often an active effort involved, like keeping a room clean. In contrast, "stay" suggests a passive state, such as staying at home.
In emotional contexts, "keep" might refer to holding onto a feeling, like keeping happy. Whereas "stay" could mean to remain emotionally stable, like staying calm.
Lastly, "keep" has a sense of ongoing action or responsibility, like keeping a secret, while "stay" implies a temporary state, like staying silent during a meeting.
Maintain or preserve
Remain in place or state
Ongoing or long-term
Often temporary or short-term
Contexts of Use
Physical objects, conditions, actions
Locations, positions, states
Holding onto feelings or commitments
Remaining emotionally or physically stable
Keep and Stay Definitions
Keep your room tidy.
The memories will stay with you forever.
Keep the door open, please.
Stay with your friends during the trip.
Keep your focus on the task.
To continue to be in a place or condition
To retain possession of
Kept the change.
Must keep your composure.
To remain or sojourn as a guest or lodger
Stayed at a motel.
To have as a supply
Keep spare parts in case of emergency.
To linger or wait in order to do or experience something
We stayed to watch the final minutes of the game.
To provide (a family, for example) with maintenance and support
"There's little to earn and many to keep" (Charles Kingsley).
To continue or persist in an action or activity
Stayed with the original plan.
Stayed in college.
To support (a mistress or lover) financially.
To keep up in a race or contest
Tried to stay with the lead runner.
To put customarily; store
Where do you keep your saw?.
(Games) To meet a bet in poker without raising it.
To supply with room and board for a charge
(Archaic) To stop moving or stop doing something.
To remain during
Stayed the week with my parents.
Stayed the duration of the game.
To maintain for use or service
An urbanite who didn't keep a car.
To stop or restrain; check
Doubt stayed his hand.
To manage, tend, or have charge of
Keep the shop while I'm away.
To suspend by legal order the implementation of (a planned action), especially pending further proceedings
Stay a prisoner's execution.
To preserve (food).
To satisfy or appease temporarily
Stayed his anger.
To cause to continue in a state, condition, or course of action
Tried to keep the patient calm.
(Archaic) To wait for; await
"I will not stay thy questions. Let me go.
/ Or if thou follow me, do not believe / But I shall do thee mischief in the wood" (Shakespeare).
To maintain records or entries in
Keep a yearly diary.
To brace, support, or prop up
The tower is stayed with cables.
To enter (data) in a book
Keep financial records.
To put (a ship) on the opposite tack or to come about.
Was kept after school.
A brief period of residence or visiting.
Kept the child away from the stove.
Kept the crowd back with barriers.
The order by which a planned action is stayed.
To prevent or deter
Tried to keep the ice from melting.
The consequence of such an order.
To refrain from divulging
Keep a secret.
The act of halting; check.
To save; reserve
Keep extra money for emergencies.
The act of coming to a halt.
To adhere or conform to; follow
Keep late hours.
A support or brace.
To be faithful to; fulfill
Keep one's word.
A strip of bone, plastic, or metal, used to stiffen a garment or part, such as a corset or shirt collar.
To celebrate; observe
Keep the Sabbath.
Stays A corset.
To remain in a state or condition; stay
Keep in line.
(Nautical) A heavy rope or cable, usually of wire, used as a brace or support for a mast or spar.
To continue to do
Keep on talking.
A rope used to steady, guide, or brace.
To remain fresh or unspoiled
The dessert won't keep.
(transitive) To prop; support; sustain; hold up; steady.
To restrain oneself; hold oneself back
I couldn't keep from eavesdropping.
(transitive) To support from sinking; to sustain with strength; to satisfy in part or for the time.
The child is in my keep for the day.
To stop; detain; keep back; delay; hinder.
The means by which one is supported
Earn one's keep.
To restrain; withhold; check; stop.
The stronghold of a castle.
To cause to cease; to put an end to.
To put off; defer; postpone; delay; keep back.
The governor stayed the execution until the appeal could be heard.
To continue in (a course or mode of action); to not intermit or fall from; to uphold or maintain.
To keep silence;
To keep possession
(transitive) To hold the attention of. en
To remain faithful to a given promise or word.
To keep one's word;
To keep one's promise
To bear up under; to endure; to hold out against; to resist.
(transitive) To hold the status of something.
To wait for; await.
To maintain possession of.
I keep a small stock of painkillers for emergencies.
To remain for the purpose of; to stay to take part in or be present at (a meal, ceremony etc.).
To maintain the condition of; to preserve in a certain state.
I keep my specimens under glass to protect them.
The abundance of squirrels kept the dogs running for hours.
To rest; depend; rely.
(transitive) To record transactions, accounts, or events in.
I used to keep a diary.
To stop; come to a stand or standstill.
(transitive) To enter (accounts, records, etc.) in a book.
To come to an end; cease.
That day the storm stayed.
(archaic) To remain in; to be confined to.
To dwell; linger; tarry; wait.
I keep my pet gerbil away from my brother.
Don't let me keep you; I know you have things to be doing.
To make a stand; to stand firm.
(with from) To watch over, look after, guard, protect.
May the Lord keep you from harm.
(intransitive) To hold out, as in a race or contest; last or persevere to the end; to show staying power.
That horse stays well.
To supply with necessities and financially support (a person).
He kept a mistress for over ten years.
(intransitive) To remain in a particular place, especially for a definite or short period of time; sojourn; abide.
We stayed in Hawaii for a week.
I can only stay for an hour.
(of living things) To raise; to care for.
He has been keeping orchids since retiring.
To wait; rest in patience or expectation.
To refrain from freely disclosing (a secret).
To wait as an attendant; give ceremonious or submissive attendance.
To maintain (an establishment or institution); to conduct; to manage.
To continue to have a particular quality.
Wear gloves so your hands stay warm.
To have habitually in stock for sale.
To live; reside
Hey, where do you stay at?
(intransitive) To hold or be held in a state.
To brace or support with a stay or stays
Stay a mast
(obsolete) To reside for a time; to lodge; to dwell.
She kept to her bed while the fever lasted.
To incline forward, aft, or to one side by means of stays.
I keep taking the tablets, but to no avail.
To tack; put on the other tack.
To stay ship
To remain edible or otherwise usable.
Potatoes can keep if they are in a root cellar.
Latex paint won't keep indefinitely.
To change; tack; go about; be in stays, as a ship.
(copulative) To remain in a state.
The rabbit avoided detection by keeping still.
Keep calm! There's no need to panic.
Continuance or a period of time spent in a place; abode for an indefinite time.
I hope you enjoyed your stay in Hawaii.
(obsolete) To wait for, keep watch for.
(legal) A postponement, especially of an execution or other punishment.
The governor granted a stay of execution.
To act as wicket-keeper.
Godfrey Evans kept for England for many years.
(archaic) A stop; a halt; a break or cessation of action, motion, or progress.
Stand at a stay
To take care; to be solicitous; to watch.
A fixed state; fixedness; stability; permanence.
To be in session; to take place.
School keeps today.
(nautical) A station or fixed anchorage for vessels.
(transitive) To observe; to adhere to; to fulfill; to not swerve from or violate.
Restraint of passion; prudence; moderation; caution; steadiness; sobriety.
To visit (a place) often; to frequent.
(obsolete) Hindrance; let; check.
To observe or celebrate (a holiday).
The feast of St. Stephen is kept on December 26.
A prop; a support.
(historical) The main tower of a castle or fortress, located within the castle walls.
A piece of stiff material, such as plastic or whalebone, used to stiffen a piece of clothing.
Where are the stays for my collar?
The food or money required to keep someone alive and healthy; one's support, maintenance.
He works as a cobbler's apprentice for his keep.
(in the plural) A corset.
(obsolete) The act or office of keeping; custody; guard; care; heed; charge; notice.
(archaic) A fastening for a garment; a hook; a clasp; anything to hang another thing on.
The state of being kept; hence, the resulting condition; case.
To be in good keep
(nautical) A strong rope or wire supporting a mast, and leading from one masthead down to some other, or other part of the vessel.
(obsolete) That which is kept in charge; a charge.
A guy, rope, or wire supporting or stabilizing a platform, such as a bridge, a pole, such as a tentpole, the mast of a derrick, or other structural element.
The engineer insisted on using stays for the scaffolding.
(engineering) A cap for holding something, such as a journal box, in place.
The transverse piece in a chain-cable link.
To care; to desire.
I kepe not of armes for to yelp [boast].
To hold; to restrain from departure or removal; not to let go of; to retain in one's power or possession; not to lose; to retain; to detain.
If we lose the field,We can not keep the town.
That I may know what keeps me here with you.
If we would weigh and keep in our minds what we are considering, that would instruct us.
(of a roof) Steeply pitched.
To cause to remain in a given situation or condition; to maintain unchanged; to hold or preserve in any state or tenor.
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal.
Keep a stiff rein, and move but gently on.
Difficult to negotiate; not easy to access; sheer.
To have in custody; to have in some place for preservation; to take charge of.
The crown of Stephanus, first king of Hungary, was always kept in the castle of Vicegrade.
Stiff; upright; unbending; reserved; haughty; proud.
To preserve from danger, harm, or loss; to guard.
Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee.
To preserve from discovery or publicity; not to communicate, reveal, or betray, as a secret.
Great are thy virtues . . . though kept from man.
A large, strong rope, employed to support a mast, by being extended from the head of one mast down to some other, or to some part of the vessel. Those which lead forward are called fore-and-aft stays; those which lead to the vessel's side are called backstays. See Illust. of Ship.
To attend upon; to have the care of; to tend.
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it.
In her girlish age, she kept sheep on the moor.
That which serves as a prop; a support.
Trees serve as so many stays for their vines.
Lord Liverpool is the single stay of this ministry.
To record transactions, accounts, or events in; as, to keep books, a journal, etc.; also, to enter (as accounts, records, etc. ) in a book.
A corset stiffened with whalebone or other material, worn by women, and rarely by men.
How the strait stays the slender waist constrain.
To maintain, as an establishment, institution, or the like; to conduct; to manage; as, to keep store.
Like a pedant that keeps a school.
Every one of them kept house by himself.
Continuance in a place; abode for a space of time; sojourn; as, you make a short stay in this city.
Make haste, and leave thy business and thy care;No mortal interest can be worth thy stay.
Embrace the hero and his stay implore.
To supply with necessaries of life; to entertain; as, to keep boarders.
Cessation of motion or progression; stand; stop.
Made of sphere metal, never to decayUntil his revolution was at stay.
Affairs of state seemed rather to stand at a stay.
To have in one's service; to have and maintain, as an assistant, a servant, a mistress, a horse, etc.
I keep but three men and a boy.
Hindrance; let; check.
They were able to read good authors without any stay, if the book were not false.
To have habitually in stock for sale.
Restraint of passion; moderation; caution; steadiness; sobriety.
The wisdom, stay, and moderation of the king.
With prudent stay he long deferredThe rough contention.
To continue in, as a course or mode of action; not to intermit or fall from; to hold to; to maintain; as, to keep silence; to keep one's word; to keep possession.
Both day and night did we keep company.
Within this portal as I kept my watch.
Strictly, a part in tension to hold the parts together, or stiffen them.
To observe; to adhere to; to fulfill; not to swerve from or violate; to practice or perform, as duty; not to neglect; to be faithful to.
I have kept the faith.
Him whom to love is to obey, and keepHis great command.
To stop from motion or falling; to prop; to fix firmly; to hold up; to support.
Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side.
Sallows and reeds . . . for vineyards useful foundTo stay thy vines.
To confine one's self to; not to quit; to remain in; as, to keep one's house, room, bed, etc.; hence, to haunt; to frequent.
'Tis hallowed ground;Fairies, and fawns, and satyrs do it keep.
To support from sinking; to sustain with strength; to satisfy in part or for the time.
He has devoured a whole loaf of bread and butter, and it has not staid his stomach for a minute.
To observe duly, as a festival, etc.; to celebrate; to solemnize; as, to keep a feast.
I went with them to the house of God . . . with a multitude that kept holyday.
To bear up under; to endure; to support; to resist successfully.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes.
To remain in any position or state; to continue; to abide; to stay; as, to keep at a distance; to keep aloft; to keep near; to keep in the house; to keep before or behind; to keep in favor; to keep out of company, or out reach.
To hold from proceeding; to withhold; to restrain; to stop; to hold.
Him backward overthrew and down him stayedWith their rude hands and grisly grapplement.
All that may stay their minds from thinking that true which they heartily wish were false.
To last; to endure; to remain unimpaired.
If the malt be not thoroughly dried, the ale it makes will not keep.
To hinder; to delay; to detain; to keep back.
Your ships are stayed at Venice.
This business staid me in London almost a week.
I was willing to stay my reader on an argument that appeared to me new.
To reside for a time; to lodge; to dwell.
Knock at his study, where, they say, he keeps.
To remain for the purpose of; to wait for.
To take care; to be solicitous; to watch.
Keep that the lusts choke not the word of God that is in us.
To cause to cease; to put an end to.
Stay your strife.
For flattering planets seemed to sayThis child should ills of ages stay.
To be in session; as, school keeps to-day.
To fasten or secure with stays; as, to stay a flat sheet in a steam boiler.
The act or office of keeping; custody; guard; care; heed; charge.
Pan, thou god of shepherds all,Which of our tender lambkins takest keep.
To tack, as a vessel, so that the other side of the vessel shall be presented to the wind.
The state of being kept; hence, the resulting condition; case; as, to be in good keep.
To remain; to continue in a place; to abide fixed for a space of time; to stop; to stand still.
She would command the hasty sun to stay.
Stay, I command you; stay and hear me first.
I stay a little longer, as one staysTo cover up the embers that still burn.
The means or provisions by which one is kept; maintenance; support; as, the keep of a horse.
Grass equal to the keep of seven cows.
I performed some services to the college in return for my keep.
To continue in a state.
The flames augment, and stayAt their full height, then languish to decay.
That which keeps or protects; a stronghold; a fortress; a castle; specifically, the strongest and securest part of a castle, often used as a place of residence by the lord of the castle, especially during a siege; the dungeon. See Illust. of Castle.
The prison strong,Within whose keep the captive knights were laid.
The lower chambers of those gloomy keeps.
I think . . . the keep, or principal part of a castle, was so called because the lord and his domestic circle kept, abode, or lived there.
To wait; to attend; to forbear to act.
I 'll tell thee all my whole deviceWhen I am in my coach, which stays for us.
The father can not stay any longer for the fortune.
That which is kept in charge; a charge.
Often he used of his keepA sacrifice to bring.
To dwell; to tarry; to linger.
I must stay a little on one action.
A cap for retaining anything, as a journal box, in place.
To rest; to depend; to rely; to stand; to insist.
I stay here on my bond.
Ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon.
The financial means whereby one lives;
Each child was expected to pay for their keep
He applied to the state for support
He could no longer earn his own livelihood
To come to an end; to cease; as, that day the storm stayed.
Here my commission stays.
The main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress
To hold out in a race or other contest; as, a horse stays well.
A cell in a jail or prison
To change tack, as a ship.
Keep in a certain state, position, or activity; e.g.,
Hold in place
She always held herself as a lady
The students keep me on my toes
Continuing or remaining in a place or state;
They had a nice stay in Paris
A lengthy hospital stay
A four-month stay in bankruptcy court
Continue a certain state, condition, or activity;
Keep on working!
We continued to work into the night
We went on working until well past midnight
A judicial order forbidding some action until an event occurs or the order is lifted;
The Supreme Court has the power to stay an injunction pending an appeal to the whole Court
Retain possession of;
Can I keep my old stuffed animals?
She kept her maiden name after she married
The state of inactivity following an interruption;
The negotiations were in arrest
Held them in check
During the halt he got some lunch
The momentary stay enabled him to escape the blow
He spent the entire stop in his seat
Prevent from doing something or being in a certain state;
We must prevent the cancer from spreading
His snoring kept me from falling asleep
Keep the child from eating the marbles
(nautical) brace consisting of a heavy rope or wire cable used as a support for a mast or spar
Conform one's action or practice to;
She never keeps her promises
We kept to the original conditions of the contract
A thin strip of metal or bone that is used to stiffen a garment (e.g. a corset)
Observe correctly or closely;
The pianist kept time with the metronome
I cannot keep track of all my employees
Stay the same; remain in a certain state;
The dress remained wet after repeated attempts to dry it
He remained unmoved by her tears
The bad weather continued for another week
Look after; be the keeper of; have charge of;
He keeps the shop when I am gone
Stay put (in a certain place);
We are staying in Detroit; we are not moving to Cincinnati
Stay put in the corner here!
Stick around and you will learn something!
Maintain by writing regular records;
Keep a diary
Maintain a record
You can stay with me while you are in town
Stay a bit longer--the day is still young
Supply with room and board;
He is keeping three women in the guest cottage
Continue in a place, position, or situation;
After graduation, she stayed on in Cambridge as a student adviser
Stay with me, please
Despite student protests, he remained Dean for another year
She continued as deputy mayor for another year
Allow to remain in a place or position;
We cannot continue several servants any longer
She retains a lawyer
The family's fortune waned and they could not keep their household staff
Our grant has run out and we cannot keep you on
We kept the work going as long as we could
I had to stay at home and watch the children
Supply with necessities and support;
She alone sustained her family
The money will sustain our good cause
There's little to earn and many to keep
Stop or halt;
Please stay the bloodshed!
Fail to spoil or rot;
These potatoes keep for a long time
The smell stayed in the room
The hostility remained long after they made up
Celebrate, as of holidays or rites;
Keep the commandments
Observe Yom Kippur
A trial of endurance;
Ride out the storm
Keep under control; keep in check;
Suppress a smile
Keep your temper
Keep your cool
Stop a judicial process;
The judge stayed the execution order
Maintain in safety from injury, harm, or danger;
May God keep you
Fasten with stays
She keeps a few chickens in the yard
He keeps bees
Overcome or allay;
Quell my hunger
Retain rights to;
Keep my job for me while I give birth
Keep my seat, please
Keep open the possibility of a merger
Stay in your seat until the end.
Store or keep customarily;
Where do you keep your gardening tools?
Stay where you are.
Have as a supply;
I always keep batteries in the freezer
Keep food for a week in the pantry
She keeps a sixpack and a week's worth of supplies in the refrigerator
They decided to stay in a hotel.
Maintain for use and service;
I keep a car in the countryside
She keeps an apartment in Paris for her shopping trips
Hold and prevent from leaving;
The student was kept after school
Prevent (food) from rotting;
Keep potatoes fresh
She keeps practicing every day.
We need to keep the traditions alive.
Repeatedly Asked Queries
Can "keep" suggest an ongoing action?
Yes, like keeping a promise.
Does "stay" only refer to physical locations?
Primarily, but it can also mean remaining in a state or condition.
How is "keep" used in emotional contexts?
It can refer to maintaining emotions, like keeping calm.
What does "keep" imply in general?
It implies maintaining, holding, or continuing something.
Is "stay" used in temporal contexts?
Yes, especially to imply a temporary situation.
Can "keep" be used in commands?
Yes, like "keep quiet."
Is "keep" versatile in meaning?
Yes, it has several related but distinct meanings.
Can "keep" indicate possession?
Yes, like keeping a book.
Does "stay" imply active effort?
No, it usually suggests a passive state.
Are there synonyms for "keep"?
Yes, like maintain, preserve, continue.
Is "keep" often used in idiomatic expressions?
Yes, it's common in phrases like "keep up."
Can "stay" be used in commands?
Yes, like "stay here."
Does "stay" have synonyms?
Yes, such as remain, linger, abide.
Is "stay" used in formal writing?
Yes, it's appropriate in both formal and informal settings.
What's a common use of "keep" in daily conversation?
Referring to retaining or continuing something, like a habit.
Can "stay" indicate a lack of change?
Yes, like staying unchanged.
Can "stay" imply emotional stability?
Yes, like staying calm under pressure.
Does "stay" have different verb forms?
Yes, like staying, stayed.
How is "stay" used to describe relationships?
It can mean to remain in a relationship, like staying friends.
Is "keep" used in the passive voice?
Less commonly, but it can be.
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Written byShumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.