I Solemnly Swear: Vocabulary for Making Promises

PELA’s New Year’s Post spoke about New Year’s Resolutions, the behaviors and attitudes that we resolve to change over the coming year.  Let’s look at more vocabulary about promises.

On Inauguration Day, the new U.S. President will take an oath of office.

An oath is a solemn promise made in a formal setting (like a courthouse or with one hand on the Bible).  The language of an oath has been prepared beforehand.  The person who takes the oath repeats it after someone.  The President will repeat it after the Chief Justice.  In case YOU want to practice and help the President if he forgets what to say, here is the Oath of Office:

oath-of-office“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” 


Another type of promise is a vow.  

A vow is also a solemn promise, but this word is usually used to talk about marriage promises: wedding vows.  Before we put the ring on our spouse’s finger, we make a promise in front of friends, family, and perhaps, a religious leader to protect, support, and be faithful to our loved one.  Often people write their own marriage vows.  You can see an example here:wedding-vows

The word promise is less formal.  

It’s an all-purpose way to say that you are giving your word to complete an action in the future.  You can use the word promise in both of the situations above, and everyone would understand exactly what you meant:  The President promises to uphold the laws of the country.  I promise my marriage partner to be faithful.


Finally, let’s talk about intentions.

Even a yoga class often starts or ends with a kind of promise, called an intention.  Used this way, an intention is a promise we make to ourselves about something we hope to achieve.  An intention can be as simple as “to breathe deeply” or “to relax,” or it can be as challenging as “to be a force for good in the world.”

What promises will you make today?