In Welsh, cadw, the verb corresponding to the English verb keep can be used to mean put away or store (something) in its appropriate place.

Welsh-speakers will sometimes be teased for transferring this usage into their English, for example:

keep the dishes will you? I've kept the laundry and now I'm ready to leave.

However, a close first-language English friend of mine from the Midlands swears that she uses keep in the same way, and that usage is considered normal in her area.

I've not found any evidence of this in the OED (despite scrolling through all the different meanings assigned to keep), or in any other dictionary. As keep is such a common word, it's hard to find anything relevant on Google.

There is, however, some independent corroboration in this post: Can keep be used as a replacement for store?

(I suspect they may have been asking the same thing, but without the Welsh dimension to the question).

I'm wondering if any non-Welsh English speakers are familiar with this usage? Is it found in certain dialects, or could it be a new pattern that's emerging in the language?

Thanks in advance.

  • 4
    The AHD has the following meaning of keep : 4. To put customarily; store: Where do you keep your saw? thefreedictionary.com/keep
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 15:49
  • 1
    It looks to me more like a dying dialectal usage (feasibly linked to some near-homophonous Welsh usage), rather than a new pattern that's emerging in the language. How old is your friend? Where (and with who) did she grow up? Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 16:48
  • 1
    The full OED entry for keep is exceptionally long, including dozens of senses now marked "obsolete", but I see that the (also very long) Etymology section starts with Late Old English cépan: no related words known in the cognate languages. Maybe the Welsh cadw has different affordances, and perhaps your friend picked it up from a Welsh parent or grandparent and simply assumed cadw and keep were cognate / synonymous. Then again, maybe someone else here will say they're familiar with the usage as cited above, which might give us further clues. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 13:22
  • 1
    Dialectal usage varies in the United States, too. Southerners use the phrase put up instead of put away. Does Welsh have an equivalent verb phrase for put away or could this have been a substitution to the closest meaning? I understand that the question is about British English rather than Welsh, but I think @FumbleFingers is certainly onto something with his statement.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 19:03
  • 1
    It's not only in Wales. After dinner, someone from Singapore (first language is English, education is UK A-levels plus Canadian university) once handed me a bottle of ketchup and told me to "keep it". Thinking this meant "take it home with me" (as a gift?), I was somewhat confused. But what they really meant was "put it back into the cupboard". Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 19:25

4 Answers 4


Using "keep" to mean "put away" is quite common in Singaporean and Malaysian English as well. This usage is likely influenced by Chinese, where , while most commonly glossed "receive", can also mean "accept" (keep) or "put away".

  • 1
    Ah, interesting! I didn't think to mention that my friend's mother is from Singapore originally and didn't speak English fluently on arrival. Even though my friend was born in the UK and speaks English natively, her use of 'keep' to mean 'put away' might very well be a quirk of Chinese English that she's inherited from her mother. Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 9:55
  • @PrettyHands A-ha! Please do accept the answer if it worked for you. Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 12:03

Off the top of my head I am thinking "ship's keep" which may be where valuable items on the ship are kept. Might also refer to a jail cell " Put him in the keep". Would like to add reference, but busy on other matters - google "ship's keep"

  • If you Google "ship's keep" it just asks if you meant "ship's keel". Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 20:06
  • I was thinking along similar lines of a pie keep, sometimes called a keep or the keep. Clearly everything mentioned in these discussions are related usages, a place to put things, putting things in their place.
    – mtugglet
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 14:43

An interesting discussion. Keep meaning to put away or bring inside is common in Manglish, Malaysian English. It's also used similarly in Sri Lankan English, where it can also mean put down, e.g. I kept the phone meaning I put the phone/receiver down. I always thought it must be some archaic version of English, but have no evidence for this.


I second user067531. There are a number of definitions of to put away in American English and Canadian English dictionaries, one of which is "to keep." However, in this instance, it's more common to "store," "stow," or "put away" the dishes. When putting away the laundry, it may make more sense to say "fold," "hang," "organize", (or maybe even stash ;) the laundry...)

  • As per my reply to @user067531 that's not the same usage as I'm trying to describe, however. It's more of a direct synonym for put away as in "will you keep the dishes" than the customary location where something is kept, Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 20:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.