Empty Promise: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 14, 2023
An "empty promise" refers to a commitment or assurance given without any intention or capacity to fulfill it. It's like giving someone your word without planning to stand by it or making a vow when you have no plans or means to make it come true.

In short:

"Empty promise" refers to a commitment or assurance that is not sincere and has a low likelihood of being fulfilled.

What Does "Empty Promise" Mean?

The idiom "empty promise" is used to describe a pledge or assurance that is not genuine. Here, we will explore the various dimensions and related expressions of this idiom:

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • A promise made with no intention of keeping it.
  • Commitments that are vague and non-specific, leaving room for non-fulfillment.
  • Related expressions include "lip service," "hollow promise," and "broken promise."

Understanding the different layers of this idiom can help avoid falling for empty promises in real-life situations.

Where Does "Empty Promise" Come From?

Tracing the origins of "empty promise" takes us back to historical texts and situations where promises were broken frequently. Let us explore this in detail:

The Early Mentions

The term has been prevalent for centuries, showcasing the universal understanding and application of the term over various periods. Historical references highlight that the term began seeing regular usage around the 1690s.

"Thou has made an empty promise and betrayed my trust," can be seen in texts from the 18th century, emphasizing the deceit that often comes with unfulfilled promises.

This long history of the term reveals its deeply rooted presence in human communication and interactions.

10 Examples of "Empty Promise" in Sentences

Below are ten sentences illustrating how "empty promise" can be used in different contexts:

  • He gave her nothing but empty promises of a better future.
  • I won't make an empty promise; I will take care of her.
  • After the initial letdown, he swore he'd make it up to her, but she was wary, fearing another empty promise would only deepen her disappointment.
  • They were tired of the empty promises made by the company.
  • It's not an empty promise; I'll genuinely do my best.
  • She decided not to fall for the empty promises anymore.
  • They were warned not to trust the empty promises of the sales agent.
  • The government's empty promises left the public disillusioned.
  • Amidst all the empty promises, there was a glimmer of hope when someone finally took action.
  • Our teacher encouraged us to avoid making empty promises.

These examples portray the idiom being utilized in many settings, emphasizing its adaptability and relevance in everyday language.

Examples of "Empty Promise" in Pop Culture

"Empty promise" has made numerous appearances in pop culture, showcasing the relevance of this term in modern times. Here are some real instances where the term was used:

  • "Empty Promises" is a song by the band Reveille, highlighting the pervasive nature of unfulfilled promises in relationships.
  • In the movie "Gone with the Wind," the character Rhett Butler is seen breaking empty promises made to Scarlett O'Hara.

These examples spotlight how the idiom remains a potent expression in contemporary media, conveying the deep disappointment and betrayal that come with unfulfilled commitments.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Empty Promise"

Here, we'll look at some synonyms and phrases that can replace "empty promise" in a conversation or writing:

  • Hollow promise
  • Lip service
  • False assurance
  • Unfounded pledge
  • Insincere guarantee

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Empty Promise"

  • What does "empty promise" mean?

An “empty promise” refers to an insincere commitment or assurance given with no genuine intention of fulfillment.

  • Where did the phrase "empty promise" originate?

The phrase has been in use since around the 1690s, but its exact origin remains unclear.

  • Are there synonyms for "empty promise"?

Yes, synonyms include “hollow promise,” “lip service,” “false assurance,” among others.

  • Can "empty promise" be seen in songs or movies?

Yes, the term can be found in songs like "Empty Promises" by Reveille and movies such as “Gone with the Wind.”

  • How to use "empty promise" in a sentence?

The phrase can be used to describe a commitment that is not expected to be fulfilled, for instance, “The government made empty promises about improving the education system.”

  • Is making an "empty promise" a good practice?

No, making empty promises is generally viewed negatively as it involves deceit and can lead to a loss of trust.

  • Can a business give an "empty promise"?

Yes, businesses sometimes make empty promises to attract customers, a practice that is considered unethical.

  • How can one avoid making an "empty promise"?

To avoid making an empty promise, it is important to be sincere and realistic about one's intentions and capabilities.

  • How to deal with "empty promises" in a relationship?

Addressing empty promises in a relationship involves open communication and establishing trust by fulfilling commitments.

  • Can "empty promise" be used in a positive context?

While it primarily carries a negative connotation, it can potentially be used in a playful or sarcastic manner in informal settings.

Final Thoughts About "Empty Promise"

"Empty promise" is a term often used to describe a commitment or assurance that is insincere or unlikely to be fulfilled. It can refer to situations where someone says they will do something, but either has no intention of following through or lacks the capacity to do so. The phrase carries a negative connotation and is associated with disappointment and mistrust.

Here is a quick wrap-up:

  • Understanding the term can prevent misunderstandings in various spheres of life.
  • It is significant in historical texts dating back to the 1690s.
  • The idiom and its synonyms are frequently seen in contemporary media and pop culture, demonstrating its persistent relevance.

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