Last modified on 13 September 2014, at 12:39




From Middle English undertaken, equivalent to under- +‎ take (after undernim).



undertake (third-person singular simple present undertakes, present participle undertaking, simple past undertook, past participle undertaken)

  1. (transitive) To take upon oneself; to start, to embark on (a specific task etc.).
    • Milton
      To second, or oppose, or undertake / The perilous attempt.
  2. (intransitive) To commit oneself (to an obligation, activity etc.).
    He undertook to exercise more in future.
    • Shakespeare
      I'll undertake to land them on our coast.
  3. (informal) to overtake on the wrong side.
    I hate people who try and undertake on the motorway.
  4. (archaic, intransitive) To pledge; to assert, assure; to dare say.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, Vol.I, Book VII:
      "I have now aspyed one knyght," he seyde, "that woll play hys play at the justys, I undirtake."
    • Dryden
      And he was not right fat, I undertake.
    • Shakespeare
      And those two counties I will undertake / Your grace shall well and quietly enjoiy.
    • Woodward
      I dare undertake they will not lose their labour.
  5. (obsolete, transitive) To take by trickery; to trap, to seize upon.
  6. (obsolete) To assume, as a character; to take on.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  7. {context|obsolete|lang=en}} To engage with; to attack.
    • Shakespeare
      It is not fit your lordship should undertake every companion that you give offence to.
  8. (obsolete) To have knowledge of; to hear.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
  9. (obsolete) To have or take charge of.
    • Chaucer
      Keep well those that ye undertake.
    • Shakespeare
      who undertakes you to your end

Usage notesEdit

Derived termsEdit