From Old French professer, and its source, the participle stem of Latin profitērī, from pro- + fatērī (to confess, acknowledge).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pɹəˈfɛs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛs


profess (third-person singular simple present professes, present participle professing, simple past and past participle professed)

  1. (transitive, chiefly passive) To administer the vows of a religious order to (someone); to admit to a religious order. [from 14th c.]
    • 2000, Butler's Lives of the Saints, p.118:
      This swayed the balance decisively in Mary's favour, and she was professed on 8 September 1578.
  2. (reflexive) To declare oneself (to be something). [from 16th c.]
    • 2011, Alex Needham, The Guardian, 9 Dec.:
      Kiefer professes himself amused by the fuss that ensued when he announced that he was buying the Mülheim-Kärlich reactor [].
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To declare; to assert, affirm. [from 16th c.]
    • c. 1604, William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, First Folio 1623:
      He professes to haue receiued no sinister measure from his Iudge, but most willingly humbles himselfe to the determination of Iustice [].
    • 1671, John Milton, Paradise Regained:
      The best and wisest of them all professed / To know this only, that he nothing knew.
    • 1974, ‘The Kansas Kickbacks’, Time, 11 Feb 1974:
      The Governor immediately professed that he knew nothing about the incident.
    • 2013 June 7, Gary Younge, “Hypocrisy lies at heart of Manning prosecution”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 18:
      WikiLeaks did not cause these uprisings but it certainly informed them. The dispatches revealed details of corruption and kleptocracy that many Tunisians suspected, []. They also exposed the blatant discrepancy between the west's professed values and actual foreign policies.
  4. (transitive) To make a claim (to be something); to lay claim to (a given quality, feeling etc.), often with connotations of insincerity. [from 16th c.]
    • 2010, Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian, 28 Sep 2010:
      Ed Miliband professed ignorance of the comment when he was approached by the BBC later.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity”, in English World-Wide[1], page 13:
      Caution needs to be exercised in regards to claims of coinage as the data contained a number of examples of writers professing the invention of a term that had actually been in existence for many years.
  5. (transitive) To declare one's adherence to (a religion, deity, principle etc.). [from 16th c.]
    • 1604, Jeremy Corderoy, A Short Dialogve, wherein is Proved, that No Man can be Saved without Good VVorkes, 2nd edition, Oxford: Printed by Ioseph Barnes, and are to be sold in Paules Church-yard at the signe of the Crowne, by Simon Waterson, OCLC 55185654, page 40:
      [N]ow ſuch a liue vngodly, vvithout a care of doing the wil of the Lord (though they profeſſe him in their mouths, yea though they beleeue and acknowledge all the Articles of the Creed, yea haue knowledge of the Scripturs) yet if they liue vngodly, they deny God, and therefore ſhal be denied, []
    • 1983, Alexander Mcleish, The Frontier Peoples of India, Mittal Publications 1984, p.122:
      The remainder of the population, about two-thirds, belongs to the Mongolian race and professes Buddhism.
  6. (transitive) To work as a professor of; to teach. [from 16th c.]
  7. (transitive, now rare) To claim to have knowledge or understanding of (a given area of interest, subject matter). [from 16th c.]

Related termsEdit


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