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A written or oral declaration given in exchange for something of value that binds the maker to do, or forbear from, a certain specific act and gives to the person to whom the declaration is made the right to expect and enforce performance or forbearance. An undertaking that something will or will not occur. It is a manifestation of intent to act, or refrain from acting, in a certain manner.

In the law of Commercial Paper, an undertaking to pay. It must be more than an acknowledgment of an obligation.

The person who makes the declaration is the promisor. The person to whom the declaration is made is called the promisee.

In contracts, a promise is essential to a binding legal agreement and is given in exchange for consideration, which is the inducement to enter into a promise. A promise is illusory when the promisor does not bind herself to do anything and, therefore, furnishes no consideration for a valid contract.

A promise implied in fact is a tacit promise that can be inferred from expressions or acts of the promisor. A promise implied by law can arise when no express declaration is made, but the party, in Equity and justice, is under a legal duty as if he had in fact actually made a promise.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1) n. a firm agreement to perform an act, refrain from acting, or make a payment or delivery. In contract law, if the parties exchange promises, each promise is "consideration" (a valuable item) for the other promise. Failure to fulfill a promise in a contract is a breach of the contract, for which the other party may sue for performance and/or damages. 2) v. to make a firm agreement to act, refrain from acting, or make a payment or delivery. (See: contract, consideration)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

PROMISE, contr. An engagement by which the promisor contracts towards another to perform or do something to the advantage of the latter.
     2. When a promise is reduced to the form of a written agreement under seal, it is called a covenant.
     3. In order to be binding on the promisor, the promise must be made upon a sufficient consideration -- when made without consideration, however, it may be binding in foro conscientice, it is not obligatory in law, being nudum pactum. Rutherf. Inst. 85; 18 Eng. C. L. Rep. 180, note a; Merl. Rep. h.t.
     4. When a promise is made, all that is said at the time, in relation to it, must be considered; if, therefore, a man promise to pay all he owes, accompanied by a denial that he owes anything, no action will lie to enforce such a promise. 15 Wend. 187.
     5. And when the promise is conditional, the condition must be performed before it becomes of binding force. 7 John. 36. Vide Condition. Promises are express or implied. Vide Undertaking, and 5 East, 17 2 Leon. 224, 5; 4 B. & A. 595.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
So began the battle with unruly locks and the never ending spend on products that promised the earth but failed to deliver.
From the outset they have promised the earth: there has been a constant chanting of the "it will be the best ever Capital of Culture" mantra.
As we revealed last year, cigar-chomping conman Ron Aylward promised the Earth and persuaded some franchisees to part with their life savings for a dud business.
For years they have been promised the earth, and now, following the latest ruling from the House of Lords, it would seem that they will end up with barely a pittance by way of compensation for the loss of their loved ones.
The real explanation is this - a truly cynical manifesto that promised the Earth to win votes.
It promised the earth, it would even paint your kitchen, or mow your lawn for you, should you so desire!
As things stand, he's promised the earth and only part paid for it; shutting down vital services is the not inconsiderable bill he's left for the rest of us to pick up.
"They feel as though they were promised the Earth but their performance will only be seen by countries that request a broadcast with them in it - and there's every likelihood the only people that will see them perform will be back home in their native Ireland.
But Labour's finance spokesman Iain Gray said: "The SNP have promised the Earth in order to win power and are now looking for any excuse they can not to keep these promises.
Mr Cummings, 46, said: "A minister stood up when Kevan first spoke and promised the earth and again they have promised the earth.