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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

"And now, king-papa," the princess went on, "I must tell you another thing. One night long ago Curdie drove the goblins away and brought Lootie and me safe from the mountain. And I promised him a kiss when we got home, but Lootie wouldn't let me give it him. I don't want you to scold Lootie, but I want you to tell her that a princess must do as she promises."
"Indeed she must, my child--except it be wrong," said the king. "There, give Curdie a kiss."
And as he spoke he held her towards him.
The princess reached down, threw her arms round Curdie's neck, and kissed him on the mouth, saying: "There, Curdie! There's the kiss I promised you!"


Stock Phrase to indicate your deep offense that someone says that you could do something that you promised not to, or refrain from something you promised to do—or actually tries to do something you had promised would not happen. (You are, after all, "a man of your word.") Bonus points if no one would realize you had broken it: if you had given it to a dying man, or no one would believe the character you gave it to. A Last Request for some reason is actually an especially binding promise—as is a vow made to the already dead.

Generally preceded (though rarely immediately preceded) by the Stock Phrase "I give you my word."

May indicate Honor Before Reason. On the other hand, if it is known that you can be trusted, may be a way out of a Mexican Standoff, Hostage Situation, or other situation that cannot be resolved by brute force. And on the third hand, when getting someone's word, beware of Exact Words.

The Blue Blood, particularly the Officer and a Gentleman, is prone to this. Indeed, he may say, "I give my word as a gentleman."

More elaborate formulas are possible. This may be because their word is not binding without them, or to emphasize their seriousness. This can be "I swear by Trope"—occasionally with the implication that Trope will personally avenge you on them if they swear falsely—or a specific curse that they invoke to fall on them if they fail (usually expressed in the form "May Trope strike me down"). Bolt of Divine Retribution is not unknown as punishment.

Making a blank-check promise — "Yes, I will do something for you"—or making it only because you have been lied to may lead to Honor Before Reason, where a character insists on carrying it out anyway. However, in these situations, even the most honorable character often insists on Exact Words. More prudent characters will break it on these grounds; then, they are more likely to be sure of their facts, or refuse to make a blank-check promise.

This is a common form of Even Evil Has Standards—see Villains Never Lie—and often a disadvantage for the Devil in a Deal with the Devil. He will follow what he said; he'll squirm the meaning if he can, but if he gave some Impossible Task for you to follow and you somehow did, he will begrudgingly follow through. There are exceptions to this, but if someone is dealing with the literal devil, the deal can be expected to be honored.

If an Incorruptible Pure Pureness character must break his word, or insist on Exact Words for some sound reason—such as having been tricked—he will break it but think it Dirty Business. A Knight Templar, on the other hand, will either break his word (or insist on Exact Words) without a tremor of conscience, or monomaniacally insist on carrying it out, regardless of the consequences. Similarly, heroes forced into the Sadistic Choice (where one option is saving lives and another keping their promise) may end up forced into a Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow.

Required for Combat by Champion.

Contrast Heroic Vow and Will Not Tell a Lie. Closely related to the Blood Oath. When someone has broken this vow so thoroughly they become ostracised they're The Oathbreaker.

Examples of I Gave My Word include:

Anime & Manga

  • Once Golgo 13 accepts a contract he always completes the mission. [1], [2]
  • This is practically Naruto's Catch Phrase even more than dattebayo/believe it. He never backs down on his word. EVER.
  • Maximillian Pegasus released the souls of Seto Kaiba, Mokuba Kaiba and Solomon Mutou in the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh after being defeated by Yugi. He gives a soliloquy about how he always keeps his word.
  • An interesting example in Hokuto No Ken, where Kenshiro breaks a promise to spare a Mook's life, asking the thug how many time he's kept a promise in his life, or spared someone who begged for their life, before leaving him to die messily.
  • Ichigo in Bleach does this. Inoue Orihime states that "when he says 'I'm going to win' those are the times that he definitely will!"
  • Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist, when she agreed to become Roy Mustang's subordinate.
  • The titular character in Lupin III. Despite being a thief, he is known even to the ICPO as a man of his word. He will keep it even when it places him at a disadvantage.
  • Once when Tamahome places his life at serious risk to save Miaka in Fushigi Yuugi, she fumes at him and tells him how much he terrified her. He takes this more lightly than other examples do, though; he chuckles and asks to be repaid in time. The other instances of this trope such as when he tries to comfort Miaka after being nearly raped by Nakago by telling her that he promised to make her the happiest bride in the world don't go as well.
  • We have Arlong from One Piece who always keeps his word when it comes to money. Which is why he was upset when Nami almost had enough money to buy her village and leave his crew despite all his henchmen telling him that he could just break his promise. That is why he found other means to keep Nami from leaving.
    • Speaking of One Piece, it's unexpectedly averted in regards to the main character, Luffy. At two different points in the series, he's been forced to promise not to fight on a certain island. Both times he ended up getting angry enough that he broke his promise anyway, with particularly bad consequences in the second case. It's not that he's unreliable: he'll fight to the death against seemingly unbeatable odds to protect a friend, but he tends to do things his own way regardless of what other people think of it.
      • In Luffy's case, it seems to be quite simple. When others make him give his word, he'll usually only give it in order to shut them up and later either forget about it or simply do the opposite thing because he considers that better. When he gives his word by himself, without any prompting, you can be sure he'll keep it forever.
    • Brook's backstory, dream and general reason for living all run on this. "Dying is no excuse!"
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku agrees to marry Chi-Chi, thinking marriage is a type of food. Several years later, Chi-Chi returns to hold Goku to his promise. Even at this point, Goku is still a Chaste Hero who doesn't really understand the concept of romantic love, but he still marries Chi-Chi anyways because he gave his word.
  • In Windaria neither Prince Roland nor Princess Veronica want to fight, yet they swore they would on their parent's deathbeds.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho Sensui says he will release the captured Kuwabara if Yusuke's team can kill Gourmet. When Kurama does that, Sensui keeps his promise. However this just ensures that Yusuke's friends fall into a trap, so Sensui can have a one-on-one battle.

Comic Books

  • Doctor Doom's word is always good, but make sure you understand his phrasing.
  • Lobo always keeps his promises. He'll merrily violate the spirit of a contract, but never the word of it. If he's promised not to kill you, he won't, no matter how much he may hate you. (Do note, however, that under the right circumstances, it's quite possible to survive multiple cases of dismemberment.)
  • Lucifer from, well, Lucifer never breaks his word, deliberately lies, or leaves a service unpaid. It's a point of pride for him, and those aware of his character often warn against mistaking it for a virtue. His wording needs to be watched, sometimes; if he tells that he gives you a chance to do something, it doesn't mean that he's compelled to tell you when that chance comes, or just what you should do to get the desired outcome.
  • In Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless rewarded Sonja's treachery as promised: by marrying her and making her his empress. Then he ordered her execution.
  • Darkseid and Thanos both will keep the literal word of any agreement, but they are not above violating the spirit of an agreement. This is common for super-villains who want to appear to have some degree of honor to set themselves above others, but can twist it to still be villains. So even if they give their word you cannot trust them.
  • In Daredevil, when Daredevil surrenders to the Plunderer to save hostages, one of the Plunderer's crewmen suggests tossing him overboard instead. The Plunderer is positively outraged at the very suggestion: "Silence, you scurvy toad! I have given my word!"
  • In the comic book adaptation of The Legend of Zelda, Link is asked to promise Zelda that he will not leave the palace on a specific day, in the storyline "He Also Stands." Big Bad Ganon uses several different ploys to try to lure him outside (which, unbeknownst to Link, would have had disastrous results), but he keeps insisting that he can't because he promised.

Fairy Tales


"You swore to marry her if she saved your life, and, come what may, you must fulfil your promise."




Dutch Engstrom: Damn that Deke Thornton to hell!
Pike Bishop: What would you do in his place? He gave his word.
Dutch Engstrom: He gave his word to a railroad!
Pike Bishop: It's his word!
Dutch Engstrom: That ain't what counts! It's WHO you give it TO!

  • Captain Barbossa is another one of those who keeps to the word of his promise but not the spirit; he has gotten grievously offended by both Elizabeth's and Will's accusation that he didn't fulfill his part of the bargain he made to them, and tells them if they have a problem with how he did it, it's their fault for not being specific in the agreement.
    • Will Turner also always keeps his promises. This leads to him betraying most of the cast over the course of the second two movies so he can kill Davy Jones and free his father from eternal servitude on the Dutchman.
  • Taken to the melodramatic extreme with No Country for Old Men. Anton Chigurh promises Moss that if he doesn't hand him the money, he will go after his wife. Moss not only didn't hand-deliver the money to Chigurh as he was supposed to, but he dies trying to hatch a plan to keep his wife safe, and after he is buried, Moss's now-widow sees Chigurh sitting in the living room, waiting to kill her. Chigurh knew that Moss's wife did nothing wrong, but he felt he had no choice but to kill her, since gave his word that he would kill Moss's wife if Moss didn't return the money. He flips a quarter to determine if she lives or not. In the book, she at first refuses, but gives in and loses. In the film, she refuses to play along at all, pointing out that it's just a half-assed way for him to avoid responsibility for his actions: this is the one time in the film that we see Chigurh lose his cool at all.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo wants to help the Man in Black climb the last few feet of cliff—so that he can kill him in a duel:

Inigo: I could give you my word as a Spaniard.
Man in Black: No good. I've known too many Spaniards.
Inigo: Isn't there any way you trust me?
Man in Black: Nothing comes to mind.
Inigo: I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya, you will reach the top alive.
Man in Black: pause Throw me the rope.

    • Not to mention that after the "Man in Black" reaches the top, Inigo lets him rest for a bit, and they chat. They really aren't enemies.
    • Twisted around when Prince Humperdink agrees not to hurt Westley if Buttercup will come along quietly, with the reasoning being that it will be Count Rugen that actually hurts Westley, and Humperdink will only watch.
      • And ultimately subverted when Humperdink mostly kills Westley.
  • From Jerry Maguire:

Jerry: "Tell me you didn't sign. Tell me you didn't sign because I'm still rather moved by that whole "Stronger than oak" thing."
"...We signed an hour ago."

  • From Finding Nemo: "No... I promised I'd never let anything happen to him..."
  • In Up, Ellie makes Carl promise that one day they'll have a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. They grow up and get married, but can never afford to make the trip. The plot is largely based upon Carl, as an old man, trying to fulfill his promise by moving their house there after Ellie's death. In this case, though, the Stock Phrase is replaced by a repeated "cross over the heart" motion.
  • In The Good the Bad And The Ugly, Angel Eyes shoots his employer after taking money from his last victim to do so. He always keeps a contract, even with a man he's just killed.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gollum swears by the One Ring that he will lead Frodo and Sam to Mordor.
    • The evil artifact made by the dark lord Sauron himself, the biggest deceiver since Morgoth - now there is something to swear by. Still, Gollum does lead them to Mordor before betraying them.
      • There is an interesting difference in the wording between the original novel and the movie. In the book he tries to swear "on the Precious", but Frodo refuses to accept a vow that depends on his lust for it, and makes him swear by it, instead, which binds him to serve Frodo as long as he's holding the Ring, whereas in the movie Frodo simply accepts "on the Precious". Arguably in the book this prevented Gollum from directly attacking Frodo, except in the end by surprise, since if Frodo had commanded him with the Ring's power as he threatened, he would have had no choice but to obey, while in the movie Gollum simply assaults Frodo as soon as he thinks he has the chance to win.
      • Note that by "on the Precious," Gollum means that intends to literally swear his vow while touching the Ring. The reason Frodo makes him swear "by the Precious" instead is that Frodo has no intention of allowing Gollum to handle the Ring for even a split second.
    • A straighter example, Samwise Gamgee.

Sam: I made a promise, Mister Frodo. A promise! "Don't you lose him, Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to!

    • Also, Aragorn releasing the dead army after the battle of Pelennor Fields despite Gimli urging him not to.
  • Thanos seems to have this policy in Avengers: Infinity War, going so far as to chastise Gamorra for lying to him, pointing out that, for all his faults, dishonesty was not one of them. At the beginning, Loki pleads for Thor to be spared, Gamorra surrenders herself in exchange for Nebula's safety, and Dr. Strange offers the last Infinity Stone for Tony Stark's life; by the end of the movie, despite the high casualty count, Thor, Nebula, and Stark are still among the survivors.
  • In the comedy Major Payne, the titular character promises a biker thug that he'll take his foot and kick him across face with it. Distracted by his footwork Payne then proceeds to sucker punch him in the throat and kick him in the nuts. The biker (now on his knees choking) foolishly brings up the Major's threat:

Biker: said you were gonna...hit me in the face.
Payne: You calling me a liar?! * boots him in the face*

  • In I Love You Phillip Morris, the prisoner in the next cell takes his agreement to play a song in his cassette player for Steven and Phillip to dance to very seriously, continuing to play it after lights out when the guards demand he stop it. When several guards come and try to force him to turn it off, he fights them off, screaming "MY WORD IS MY BOND, BITCH!".
  • In Legally Blonde, Brooke Wyndam, the accused, gives her alibi to law student, Elle Woods. Elle refuses to divulge this alibi despite being pressured by the lead attorney, Callahan, and the other law students working the case because Elle promised not to tell.
  • Flash Gordon. Princess Aura asks Dale Arden to put a poison pill in Ming's drink. Dale declines, saying she gave her word to Ming to be a good wife to him if he'd spare Prince Barin and Hans Zarkov.

Princess Aura: "My father never kept an oath in his life!"
Dale: "I can't help that. I have to keep my word. It's one of the things that makes us better than you."


Obi-Wan Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word. I will train Anakin.

  • In Terminator 2, John made the T-800 promise to never kill anyone, and he literally did, even before he made the promise.
  • Subverted in The Replacements, when team owner Edward O'Neil re-hires coach Jimmy McGinty and asks him to put together a team of replacement players while the real players are on strike, McGinty agrees on the condition that he will have no interference from O'Neil on his player choices. O'Neil is reluctant but answers with "my word is my bond". McGinty, knowing O'Neil, asks for it in writing. Later on, O'Neil breaks his promise and demands that McGinty switch quarterbacks.
  • In Run Fatboy Run, perennial slacker Dennis Doyle promises he will finish the Nike River Run marathon, and he does, despite a badly sprained, and possibly broken ankle slowing him down.
  • From The Magnificent Seven, after a discussion of all the good reasons for giving up and going home.

Harry: Well, there comes a time to turn Mother's picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.
Chris Adams: You forget one thing. We took a contract.
Vin: Not the kind any court would enforce.
Chris: That's just the kind you've got to keep.

  • Marriage is the promise of eternal love and as a man of honor, Leopold of Kate and Leopold, cannot promise eternally what he has never felt momentarily.


  • In Fury Born: Tisiphone will not break her word if she vows to help somebody obtain vengeance, however the price is literally the person's soul and sanity.
  • James Bond: Blofeld will not violate a business agreement. He wants S.P.E.C.T.R.E. to be known as a trustworthy organization that is superior to the other crime syndicates.
  • Star Wars: Jango and Boba Fett live by a code of completing the mission. Only extreme conditions can force them to retreat in failure.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, Gaunt holds Van Voytz at gunpoint to demand his word for the safety of his men. Van Voytz gives it, Gaunt lowers his gun, one of Van Voytz's subordinates starts to rush him, and Van Voytz bellows in outrage that he had given his word. (And demands that he salute Gaunt.)
    • Of course, he never said Gaunt wouldn't be arrested for pulling that stunt...
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga novels, the Backstory includes a massacre of prisoners who had surrendered on Aral Vorkosigan's personal word of honor. Vorkosigan strangled barehandedly broke the neck of the man responsible for the deaths as soon as he heard of it. Various other Vor give their words throughout the books.
    • This is then subverted later on in Shards of Honor when Aral obtains privacy to discuss various sensitive subjects with Cordelia by giving his word as a Vorkosigan that they would only discuss his past proposal of marriage. Cordelia remarks on the fact that there had been a time when he would never have given his word falsely.
      • Ironically, technically Aral didn't break his word—they discussed only his past proposal of marriage and matters directly relating thereto, just as promised. Its not Aral's fault that his exalted birth means that the Barrayaran political scene in general, survivability index of, is a matter directly relating...
    • Ekaterin feels guilt over her decision to abandon her first marriage not because abusive Jerkass Tien deserved better, but because in marrying him she had given her word.
    • Generally speaking, if a member of the Barrayarran upper-class says "My word as Vor", they frakking mean it.
      • In fact, this is the basis for Barrayar's entire legal system. When a Vor gives you his word, it has the force of a signed contract—and if he fails to keep his promise, he can be sued for breach of contract.
    • Closing the generational circle, large parts of both Memory and A Civil Campaign revolve around how Ekaterin and Miles cope with living after failing to keep their words. It's a survivors problem, as Miles puts it, since sooner or later a philosophy based on "death before dishonor" inevitably forces one to choose between being dead or forsworn.
    • Mark experiences the effect saying "My word as Vorkosigan" can have in Mirror Dance. He says it lightly, when promising Kareen a dance at a later date, and when she gives him a huge smile...

He felt like a man who's gone to spit, and had a diamond pop accidentally from his lips. And he couldn't call it back and re-swallow it.

  • In L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, Emily, while feverish, told her aunt to open up a well that had been sealed. Her aunt gives her word and goes to do it. Others are shocked that she feels herself bound by a promise given to quiet a delirious child, but she does. Emily is psychic, and the well turns out to hold the body of a woman who had been believed to have run away with a lover on a ship that had sunk, but had actually broken her neck falling in.
  • Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe—if he gives his word, it's good. Even Inspector Cramer believes him under those circumstances.
  • Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book set out to kill Shere Khan "to keep my word."
    • In The Second Jungle Book, he persuades Kaa to help against the dhole by explaining that he had given his word to help the Free People.

It is my Word which I have spoken. The Trees know, the River knows. Till the dhole have gone by my Word comes not back to me.


Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never.

  • In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, at the end, Henry Tilney asks Catherine to marry him, and then tells her that his father has forbidden it. She is glad of the order: if she had known first, she would have been honor-bound to refuse him, but now, she has said she would and is bound by that.
    • In Persuasion, Anne Eliot's friend Mrs. Smith fishes to discover whether she is engaged to Walter Eliot before she reveals the truth; if Anne had been, she would be bound by her word, and for Mrs. Smith to tell her the truth would not warn her off but merely make her unhappy for no good reason. (Fortunately, Anne wasn't.)
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Warriors of Ultramar, after the Inquisitor promised that he would not call Exterminus on a planet to keep it from the tyrannids, Uriel rebukes him for failing this: "I thought you were a man of your word."
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm of Iron, when rounding up prisoners to flush out where the guns are, Kroeger tells them if they live, they will be permitted to live, he gives his word, and one of them jeers at him for saying that—the word of an Iron Warrior. She does survive, and observes that he gave his word, but she had judged him correctly; he jeers at the notion.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Sons of Fenris, when prisoner to the Space Wolves, Jeremiah promises not to escape, and Ragnar gives him and his men their weapons back. Later, after he disputes with Ragnar about where they should go, it ends when he says, "I gave you my word."

Ragnar, I pledge to you by my faith in Lion El'Johnson and the Emperor, that my men and I will remain your prisoners, until the time comes when our brethren free us or you release us.

    • Later, Jeremiah pleads with Ragnar to let him be the one to deal with Cadmus, because he had pledged his word to his chapter; Ragnar gives his word that Cadmus will be his to deal with. When they meet Cadmus, Cadmus offers information in return for his life, and Ragnar promises, much to Jeremiah's outrage. When Cadmus demands that Ragnar let him go free, Ragnar says that he only promised him his life, and it's his, and Ragnar suggests that he start defending it. The Space Wolves leave and the Dark Angels don't.
    • In Wolf's Honour, Bulveye assures Ragnar that he knows, in time, Leman Russ and he will meet again, because Russ gave him his word on it.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, when Tarvitz is trying to warn the betrayed Marines on Isstavan III, he invokes The Power of Friendship to get Garro to believe his word, because of their Fire Forged Friendship.

as my honor brother I ask you to trust me like you have never trusted me before. On my life I swear that I do not lie to you, Nathaniel.

  • In the Backstory of Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, Sahaal had watched the Night Haunter be assassinated, because the Night Haunter had foreseen it and extracted a promise from him to do so.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Rafen had promised their father to look out for Arkio. Making their Cain and Abel fight particularly hard on Rafen — and he apologizes to the dying Arkio for not having helped him. And Stele has Koris and other sergeant promise to keep a secret before he lies to them; they would think of this trope and not consider it was a lie.
  • In George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene takes—as the page quote shows—most of the book to manage to keep her word.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Orfeo, when Orfeo presents himself at the court of the King of Fairy, the king promises him a reward for his ministrelry. Orfeo asks for his kidnapped wife. The king objects that he is all dirty and tattered and unfit for such a lady; Orfeo says it would be more unfitting for the king to break his word, and the king has to concede.
  • At the end of Patricia A. McKillip's Heir of Sea and Fire, Raederle swears by the ghost of Ylon that she will not leave Morgon. When, in the next book, she does leave him, Morgon tracks her down, worried that the ghost must already be troubling her for breaking it.
  • In E. Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, the children and an Egyptian priest give their words: the priest by a secret name on a certain altar, and the children say they will do it, which means the same. The priest then declares that there is no such name, so he is not bound, but the Psammead knows that there is, and threatens to call upon it.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, practically any magical being keeps to their word if they give it. Dresden explains that if a wizard gives their word (especially if they swear by their power) then going back on it will permanently damage their magic. The Fair Folk are naturally bound by the letter of their word (if not by the spirit). The Knights of the Cross keep their word on general principle. It seems one of the advantages of being powered by a Fallen Angels that you can go back on your word with no negative repercussions, but the downside of that is that, since you are being powered by a Fallen Angel, you go back so often it no longer has any meaning at all.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the D'regs will follow this if they give their word. They will not feel bound to oaths or to swearing on something, though.
    • That principle is actually laid out in the Bible: "Do not swear at all: either by heaven.. or by Jerusalem... Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'..." (Matthew 5:34-37, very shortened).
    • In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Trev promised his mum not to play football. He insists on keeping it, even though she's dead.
    • In Going Postal, the financiers save Ankh-Morpork with a verbal agreement, bound by a handshake. They know this is quite binding. It is implied that the financiers are quite willing to hire the Guild of Assassins to punish anyone who threatens people's faith in this system.
  • In Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Olympians, gods are bound by their promises by the River Styx. Hades keeps his to Nico even without that, though he insists on Exact Words. And Luke's promise to Annabeth is crucial to his final Heroic Sacrifice.
    • This is not universal, as both Zeus and Poseidon break a vow made this way. The thing is, breaking this kind of a promise is really bad, and the fates will try and find a way to punish whoever broke it (though it's never shown exactly what happens).
  • Shadow from Neil Gaiman's American Gods keeps his promises, from little things like having a proper bath the moment he gets out of prison, to letting a god swing at his skull with a sledgehammer, having wagered his life in a checker game. The god doesn't come for him; Shadow voluntarily returns to his house to pay off this debt.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, when the Howling Griffons are introduced, Mercaeno explains the Backstory of the daemon they had just killed: three thousand years before, they had sworn to avenge the death of Orlando Furioso, and had finally done so. Part of why it had taken so long was that they had other oaths. He explains that they are traveling to this planet to fulfill an oath. The Inquisitor he tells this to says that he, also, is traveling there to keep his word. Indeed, the Howling Griffons' chief motivation throughout the novel is keeping their word; when the Soul Drinkers persuade them that they are not the Black Chalice they have sworn Revenge on, the Howling Griffons stop fighting them and go to keep their oath to protect a planet from orks.
  • In Brian Jacques's Redwall, Warbeak gives her word on her mother's egg. When the king orders Matthias's death, Warbeak says so, and the king immediately revokes the order.
    • Vilu Daskar has a fondness for using this trope—and Exact Words—on his victims. When he no longer has a use for certain slaves, he tells them they're free to leave and makes them Walk the Plank. His crew are also seen discussing various ways he's "set prisoners free", including telling them they will leave the ship alive, then sewing them up in sacks and dropping them overboard.
    • Also see Matthias' Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • In GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, Syme promises not to reveal what he learns to the police before his companion reveals a serious anarchist club. Despite everything he learns, he keeps it to the end.
  • In JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion, why Beren insists on trying to carry out the Impossible Task when Luthien asks him to just run off with her.
    • The Oath of Fëanor: Fëanor and his sons swore to recover the Silmarils. It led them to slaughter other Elves three times, which was not only despicable in itself (which they knew) but also very much hindered their own quest in the long term.
      • This may be why this trope is pointedly averted where the Fellowship of the Ring—except Frodo—are concerned: Gimli wants to make them swear an oath, but Elrond absolutely refuses. (The Silmarillion was published posthumously, so the connection is never made explicitly, but Elrond and his family, by blood and by adoption, suffered from the consequences of the Oath of Fëanor.)
    • Also, Faramir in The Two Towers:

"Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them."

    • In the same sequence, Frodo responds to Faramir's attempt to persuade him not to let Gollum be his guide into Mordor by saying he has already given his word to Gollum:

"You would not ask me to break faith with him?"

  • Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss: "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant; an elephant's faithful, one hundred percent." Horton sticks with his agreed-upon egg-sitting, no matter how much suffering it puts him through, and no matter how much the bird is abusing it.
  • In JK Rowling's Harry Potter, Harry is reluctantly made to give his word to Dumbledore that, during their mission, if he tells Harry to run, he'll run; that if he tells him to leave him and save himself, he will do so. Also used in the movie.
    • Also, see The Unbreakable Vow, a more literal version of this trope.
      • To be more specific, the Unbreakable Vow is a spell that forces a person into this trope. If the person who gives his word goes back on it, he/she dies. Period.
      • In other words, he has the option of a Heroic Sacrifice or this trope.
    • In many Harry Potter FanFics, characters swear on their magic, with the less drastic consequence of losing their magic instead of their life if they break it.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars, when Dejah Thoris is chained, John Carter tries to get the key. Tars Tarkas tells him he may have it for giving his word that neither he nor she would try to escape. John Carter tells him to keep it.
  • In Andre Norton's Cat's Eye, when Rangers try to hire Troy, he tells them that his current employer asked him to stay on after his temporary contract ends; he had given his word. The Rangers admit that that is the disadvantage of dealing with honorable men. Later, when one Ranger persuades Troy to accept his word to a truce, they are ambushed. Furious, Troy takes him hostage and knocks him out while he makes his escape. Later, he almost apologizes; he had not realized at the time that the ambushers were not the Ranger's men.
  • In Frank Yerby's The Saracen Blade, protagonist Pietro and his friend Gautier find Gautier's Albigensian uncle wants to die of his wounds. Gautier is troubled when Pietro, ignoring the man's wishes, starts tending the injuries as soon as the uncle passes out. "I gave my word, Pietro," he says. Pietro snaps, "I didn't."
  • In C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, the Hunter Gerald Tarrant always keeps his word. Breaking it actually causes him anguish and seems to threaten what little humanity he has left. The only reason he joins the main characters on their quest in the first book was due to this. Under the influence of a powerful Tidal-based Working that exposes a person's true self (Damien displayed his Knight in Shining Armor tendencies and Senzei...isn't proud of whatever it was he did), Tarrant succumbed to his inherent predatory nature and attacked Ciani—and he had earlier promised Karril that he would never harm her. He spends the rest of the book trying to make it up to her, and suffers a great deal in the process, culminating in a near Heroic Sacrifice, although he recovered eventually. Near the end of the first book, Big Bad Calesta nearly tricks Tarrant into breaking his word again by offering him as a sacrifice a girl whom Tarrant hard earlier assured on a whim he would not hurt. Tarrant barely catches himself this time. This pisses him off so badly he joins Damien on his new quest in order to hunt down Calesta.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai are made to swear on an artifact known as the Oath Rod, one of the oaths being to never tell a lie. Even though they pride themselves on the ability to get around the oath, if they ever give a promise, they mean it because the magic of the oath prevents them from lying.
    • Specifically, the oath is to "speak no word that is not true". This notably does NOT exclude insinuations along the lines of "some say X", lies of omission, or encouraging misconceptions through ambiguous phrasing.
      • And as a result Deconstructed Trope, since no one who knows them well enough trusts them unless they give a clear unambiguous answer (which is rare).
    • It's a misconception that Aes Sedai can't break their promises. The First Oath means that an Aes Sedai can't give her word unless she intends to keep it at the time that she gives it, but there's nothing that prevents her from later changing her mind.
    • Mat Cauthon and company (including Aes Sedai and Seanchan captives, among others) are being chased by the Seanchan at one point (kidnapping a Seanchan princess would do that). When it seems that their pursuers have caught up, Mat is flying from one end of the circus to the other, barking orders at all the rest, except one, to try and keep them from attracting attention. When that one (the Seanchan Princess) later asks him why he had no such orders for her, he says that he remembers that she gave her word one book ago that she would stay hidden by any means necessary. This is an uncanny show of savvy for a series characterised by the Mars and Venus Gender Contrast and constant Idiot Ball-ing and really elevates her esteem of him.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age and The Phoenix Exultant, Helion's word to the Horators keeps him from defying them even for his beloved son. Only in The Golden Transcedence, when Daphne reveals he gave his word to his son in the time he does not remember, is he perturbed.
  • In Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, Eldest Whistler promises Ren not to take unnecessary risks while scouting, and does refrain from acts to keep it.
  • In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Katniss promises Prim to really, really, really try. Shooting the Gamemakers' pig, when she is convinced it will get her a low score and no sponsors, causes her to cry Tears of Remorse partly over that.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Roger thinks, even while threatening's Red's life, that he can't really kill him, because he gave his word.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, one witch keeps her word not to harm another—just inflicts Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle" Conan inverts it—saluting Yasmina with "You kept your word!"
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Ferdinard, deeply touched that Miranda is still unmarried, assumes that she was keeping her vow to marry him or remain a maid. He offers to marry her and not consummate the marriage so she can get it dissolved and then marry as she chooses.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Blood Maidens, a vampire master informs fledglings that he has promised Asher his protection, and dreadful things will happen if anyone hurts him.
  • In Salute the Dark, the Dragonflies are I Gave My Word honor bound not to try to reclaim their lands.
  • Brienne of Tarth from A Song of Ice and Fire has this as a major character trait, setting her up as a Foil for Jaime Lannister; she's one of the only characters who can legitimately be trusted never to go back on her word or do something dishonourable. Because she lives in a Crapsack World, this bites her in the ass. A lot. When told she could either do something she felt was dishonourable or be executed, she refused to make the choice, which got her hanged. It's currently ambiguous as to whether or not she survived.
    • For a largely villainous family, the Lannisters take their unofficial motto "a Lannister always pays his debts" fairly seriously. They take pains to fulfil their promises and repay their debts... although the flipside of this is that they also take pains to fulfil their threats and repay their grudges.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, this is the reason Dalinar gives up his Shardblade.

Kaladin: You really do think it was a good deal, don't you?
Dalinar: For my honor? Definitely.

  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Valiant, one Allied prisoner has gotten to know Geary well enough that he assures the Syndics that he always keeps his word.
  • In a Dutch novel by Thea Beckman, set in the middle ages, (noble) prisoners of war are allowed to walk around freely, because they gave their word that they would not try to escape, and abide by it. One of the prisoners however is not of noble birth, and when he finds out something that would help his side, if only they knew about it, he does not hesitate to break his word (arguing that he is not noble, therefore his honor is not important to him). Despite his information, the nobleman he tells it to is angry with him, because now the other prisoners will not be believed anymore and probably put in chains to prevent their escaping as well.
  • In Sad Cypress, Elinor Carlisle promises her dying aunt that her lawyer will be sent for so that a provision can be made for her protege Mary Gerrard (who is Elinor's romantic rival). After the aunt dies without leaving a will, Elinor herself gives Mary an adequate sum of money (all the while hating her and feeling intensely jealous of her). Then, of course, Mary dies and Elinor is charged with the murder...
  • In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, why Menelaus was kept alive.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, Hugh must return because he swore on his father's name that he would.
  • In Midshipman Hornblower our hero is a prisoner of the Spanish and gives his parole not to escape. Later he permitted to save the lives of some English sailors and take them back to their ship. Though sorely tempted he tells the Captain he must keep his word to go back. This being the 18th c. everybody understands completely.

Live-Action TV

  • Andromeda: The Ogami will not break a contract and will always complete a mission.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: the Hazari see completing a contract as a matter of pride. However, they can be bought off for a high price. Also, unreliable and double-dealing clients must increase the bounty money or find another option.
  • Arthur of BBC's Merlin is like this, even going so far as to put his head on a literal chopping block after giving his word to accept whatever challenge he was given in exchange for his life.
    • Merlin too, in his second What the Hell, Hero? moment of 2X12 when he Frees the Great Dragon, who then proceeds to attack Camelot.
  • Subverted in The Sopranos: when Carmella and Tony are discussing ratting out other criminals and going into witness protection, Tony says this. Carmella replies: "What are you, a kid in a treehouse?" A nice way to point out how ridiculous this trope can be, when the choice is following your word or protecting your family.
  • Boss Hogg is about as corrupt as you can get, but he will keep his word if he "spits and shakes" on it.
  • In Farscape Aeryn swears that Scorpius will not be harmed because he saved her life. She binds John to it as well, making him promise. Of course, she's delirious at the time so it wasn't really a fair way to get sanctuary. Not that Scorpius cares.

Crichton: (about killing Scorpius) You made me promise that I wouldn't.
Aeryn: Well, I release you from that promise.
Crichton: Say that again.
Aeryn: I release you from that promise.
Crichton: Thank you. (points gun at Scorpius's head) I'll give you my bike if you kill him.

  • In The Late Shift (based on real events), Jay Leno has difficulty firing his out-of-control executive producer, Helen Kushnick, because he gave his word to her late husband on his deathbed that he'd take care of her.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Die Is Cast", when Odo is missing in the Gamma Quadrant, Michael Eddigton sabotages the Cloaking Device in an attempt to stop Sisko's rescue operation. Sisko decides to continue the mission anyway, at which point Eddington pledged to help, invoking this trope.

Kira: What makes you think we'll trust you again?
Eddington: Because I give you my word.
Sisko: I make it a policy to never question the word of anyone who wears that uniform. Don't make me change that policy.

    • And tweaked with in an episode of TNG, when Worf is stuck in a sort of Romulan prison camp/community. After multiple attempts at causing trouble, including setting off an explosion and trying to escape, Worf asks to go hunting with another Klingon and gives his word that he won't try to escape again. The Romulan commander however is having none of this, until an elder Klingon reminds him that he gave his word years ago, and has never broken it.
  • In 24, Jack Bauer carries this on his back, to such an extent that he actually can't understand why Dana, who'd only met him a couple of hours earlier, could possibly doubt him. He later breaks his word by killing her. Sucks to be her.
    • His former mentor, turned The Dragon, at one point tells Jack he will only cooperate if Jack gives him his word that he will be released after it is over, as he knows how much Jack values his word. Jack does, but the Dragon knows that he has killed too many of Jack's friends, David Palmer, Tony Almeida, and Michelle Dessler, for him to keep his word and lays a trap for Jack. He is then Out-Gambitted.
  • If Ben Linus says he'll let you get off the island, you will get off the island.
  • Blakes Seven features this with Avon, of all people, in the second series finale.
    • It seems to be a general rule for him—he spends the following two seasons searching for Blake because he promised to take him back to Earth. When Avon finally does break his word on something (trying to kill Vila after promising to keep him safe) it's a sign that the end is near.
  • Todd from Stargate Atlantis isn't someone to be easily trusted. His first encounter with Sheppard though shows, that he has a sense of honor and keeps his word once given - without expecting Sheppard to do the same. One could say it is a case of Honor Before Reason. Todd's esteem certainly arrives from Sheppard's willingness to stay true his word.
    • This is not to say that they like each other. After a few of Todd betrayals (there were extenuating circumstances), Sheppard is understandably a little wary of trusting the guy again. When Todd asks Sheppard in the series finale why he let him go the last time, Sheppard tells him that he gave his word... and also because he thought Todd wouldn't make it on his own.
  • Subverted in Stargate SG-1 Season 2 episode Spirits when the character Tonane refers to the Goa'uld larva inside Teal'c as a "demon"

Teal'c: The demon will cause you no harm. I give you my word.
Tonane: Normally that would mean a great deal to me. But how do I know the value of your word? We've only just met.

    • Inverted in the episode "It's Good to Be King", where Teal'c promises a Jaffa (played by Wayne Brady) that he'll die quickly. When Teal'c finally kills him, the Jaffa's last words are "You are a man of your word".
  • In Breaking Bad, Jesse gives his word that he will pay a fair price to the junkyard owner who has towed and stored his RV. When the junkyard owner threatens to sell it off and pocket the money instead, Jesse steals the RV. When Jesse finally gets some cash, he returns with the fair payment, plus interest, plus the cost of the portable toilet and fence that he broke during his escape.
  • Babylon 5. Londo Mollari gives Narn its freedom in return for G'kar's aid in overthrowing Cartagia. Even though G'kar fulfills his part of the bargain first and Londo would have no problem maintaining the occupation, he chooses to withdraw peacefully. This line is used verbatim to explain why.
    • In the episode Atonement Delenn promises to abide by her clans decision regarding her marriage to Sheridan.
  • A plot point in the season 6 episodes of House, "The Dig" and "After Hours". In the latter episode, Thirteen is determined, perhaps beyond reason, to keep a promise she made to the woman who had been her cellmate in prison. Chase correctly analyzes that her intense reaction to the idea of keeping her word is a reaction to her having previously kept her promise to euthanize her own brother as he was dying an ugly death from Huntington's disease, which is why Thirteen had spent time in prison, and which disease Thirteen also has herself. As Chase points out, by adopting the philosophy that she had to kill her own brother because she had given her word she would do it and you can't go back on that, it distances her from responsibility for what she did.

Spike: You don't come near the girl, Doc.
Doc: I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care?
Spike: I made a promise to a lady.

  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, one of the title character's former generals was terrorizing a town, and he and Xena fought a duel which Xena won. She said that she'd forgo taking his life if he promised to leave the village alone. When he agrees, he and his men begin to clear out... except one, who sneakily goes for his knife to try and attack Xena from behind. The general throws a dagger into his chest from across the room, and says to a surprised Xena, "A deal's a deal." He then leaves as promised.
  • Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold of Once Upon a Time has only once ever gone back on a deal, and it's possible that he's been trying to make up for it ever since. This is not to say that he won't twist the bargain to his own ends, as he does when he fakes the murder Regina wanted him to frame Mary for, claiming that Regina never explicitly told him to kill the would-be victim. And even if you get exactly what you want from him, the price you'll have to pay may be far greater than you imagine...especially if you try to cheat him out of his end.


  • In Classical Mythology, all the gods (even the tricksters, even mighty Zeus) must follow their word when they swear by the Styx. Hera tricked Dionysus' mother Semele into making Zeus swear by the Styx to show her his true, divine, form—which burned her to a crisp.
    • Also, Helios promised his beloved son Phaethon anything, on the River Styx. Phaeton asked for a joyride in his father's chariot. The only trouble was, said chariot was the Sun. The story did not end well.
    • In The Iliad, it's why the Greeks went to The Trojan War - Odysseus decided that the only way to avoid war over who should marry Helen of Troy was to make all of her suitors promise that they would abide by her father's decision (whoever it was) and go to war against anyone who would abduct her. They all agreed, and it was a good idea - after all, who would be stupid enough to face all the armies of Greece for one lady?
    • In the theatrical version of the Argonaut myth, Jason justified his break-up with Medea and marrying Glauce because he gave his word. Medea replied he was breaking his marriage vow, and made him pay.

Professional Wrestling

  • If a certain someone "guaran-damn-tees" a win, expect said win over whoever Vince is feuding with that year.

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons & Dragons, a devil (Lawful Evil beastie) does not give his word often, but when he does, you know for certain that he will keep it. However how he keeps it is another matter entirely...
    • There is an entertaining scene in the D&D-based Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer which concerns getting a devil to admit he broke his word.
  • This is a major aspect of Changeling: The Lost. True Fae give shape to their surroundings in Arcadia through the force of their agreements, and this is often how they ensnare their victims- binding them, often involuntarily, to agreements that their victims must abide by. This effects escaped Changelings as well- pledges, agreements, and contracts are a fundamental aspect of Changeling life, and breaking them results in both societal and magical punishment.



I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow,
By his best arrow with the golden head,
By the simplicity of Venus' doves,
By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,
When the false Troyan under sail was seen,
By all the vows that ever men have broke,
In number more than ever women spoke,
In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.


Video Games

  • In Halo 2, Chief leaves Cortana on High Charity, in an attempt to stop the Flood, promising that he'll return to bring her back. She responds that he shouldn't make promises he knows he can't keep. In Halo 3 Chief makes good on his word, which seems to help bring Cortana out of the traumatized state Gravemind left her in.
  • The player can actually do this in Persona 4. There's a dialogue option in the first part of the game where you make a promise to get to the bottom of the mystery and find the real culprit behind the murders. Following through on this vow to the bitter end is what ultimately earns you the True Ending.
  • Adell from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. He would do anything to keep his promises, even to an enemy. Like, deliver an Evil Overlord's daughter to her daddy, whom he has also vowed to kill. Much to said daughter's surprise, he's quite serious about both getting her to the overlord unhurt AND killing the overlord.
    • Valvatorez from Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is even more willing to keep a promise. He decides to overthrow the Netherworld's government just because they're keeping him from fulfilling his promise to give his Prinny trainees a sardine after he finishes training them. He's also been waiting 400 years to fulfill a different promise to show a certain someone "true fear" before he ever drinks blood again, because they died before he could live up to it.
  • When Squall makes a promise, especially to Rinoa, count on it being kept, regardless of the danger involved in doing so or the consequences that might follow.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, Nicola wishes to meet the Great Hero of legend, and would search for him himself if not for one thing: he promised his father that he would never leave his hometown of Mezar. Thus, even after his father is long gone, he sticks around town, asking any adventurers passing through to see if they can't revive the Great Hero.
  • Red from Solatorobo absolutely insists on keeping his promises. When asked why, his response is just "I swore on my tail that I would!"

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Done in DuckTales (1987), where Scrooge gives his word not to leave the Beagle Boys behind on a pirate isle. And, he keeps his word, going back for them when he could have escaped.
  • Used in Disney's Peter Pan. Hook accuses Peter of being a coward because he always flies away instead of fighting him fair and square. Pan gives his word to fight Hook without flying, despite Wendy begging him to.
    • Captain Hook himself uses this, albeit in a sneaky, loophole-abusive way. "I gave my word not to lay a finger or a hook on Peter Pan. And Captain Hook always keeps his promises" he's lowering a bomb into Peter's hideout.
  • Also from Disney, Hades from Hercules is the type of evil god who tries to tempt and corrupt mortals, but he always keeps his end of a bargain he makes with one, a rarity for Disney villains.
  • Lady Tremaine in Cinderella gives her word that Cinderella can go to the ball if she "gets all her work done and finds something suitable to wear." She does both. Lady Tremaine says, "I never go back on my word." Unfortunately, she never promised that she wouldn't let her daughters tear the suitable dress to bits.
  • Omi in Xiaolin Showdown keeps his word, even to the point of withholding the secret to defeating all evil because of a promise to Chase Young.
  • Rapunzel in Tangled. When she makes a promise, no matter how it might hurt her, she will keep it. From returning Flynn the tiara he stole (even if he would leave her, despite her growing feelings for him) to promising Gothel she would stay with her and never run away again, as long as she heals Flynn (even if it means never seeing Flynn again and giving up her freedom).
    • Though she promises never to ask to leave the tower again, so she's free to actually leave without asking.
  • In an episode of She Ra Princess of Power, She-Ra volunteers to surrender herself in exchange for the release of hostage citizens. The villain of the week actually lets them go first, then is surprised and impressed when she keeps her promise to surrender.
  • In one episode of Batman Beyond Melanie, formerly Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, gives Batman a note for Terry McGinnis but makes Batman promise he will not read it. Batman agrees. What she doesn't know is Batman is Terry, so he simply tosses the note out as by his promise he cannot read it.
  • In the Family Guy episode "McStroke" Peter takes Brian with him to McBurgertown headquarters so he can find incriminating evidence to sue the company. They find a door to a room that is off limits and Peter gives his word that they won't go in. When Brian tells Peter this is what they were looking for, he tells him he gave his word, but Brian tells him to forget that and they go in anyway.
  • In Justice League Circe gave her word she would leave Hippolyta alone. That meant she could turn her daughter Wonder Woman into a pig.
    • She plays this straight when she changes Wonder Woman back, despite her being clearly more powerful than Zatanna and Batman.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, after Jimmy gives his word not to leave a certain spot, nothing can make him break it. Said promise is actually a Secret Test of Character that Lucius doesn't want him to pass.
  • In a second season episode of Rick and Morty, the two protagonists make a bet: Morty gets to choose the adventure this time, and if it's a good one, he gets to choose every tenth one from then on. (He initially wanted it to be every third, but Rick bargains down to tenth.) Morty wins the bet, and two seasons later (in "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender") produces a punch card showing that this is indeed the tenth one since then. Despite being a complete dick at the best of times (including this time) Rick honors the bet.
  • In the first Season Finale of Harley Quinn (2019 version) the Joker promises to release Clayface, Dr. Psycho, and Killer Shark if Harley surrenders. Amazingly, he does indeed let them go when she does.

Real Life

  • Germany's political scene went bullocks in 1999 about the contributions scandal of the Christian Democratic Union, the country's major conservative party, especially as then recently retired chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to admit the names of their contributors on the grounds that "I gave them my word of honor". It was a major blow for him and his party, and the "word of honor" became a meme on par with Bill Clinton allegedly not having had "[...]sexual relations with that woman[...]"
  • Curious historical etymology- partly why (until very recently) Bankers were held in such high esteem was that they were punctilious about keeping their word. The London Stock Exchange itself has the motto, "My word is my bond" inscribed over the entrance, which is the origin of the phrase. Because there were so few bankers in a very close knit professional community, breaking your word led to your very soon to be inability to practice as a Banker in England. Incidentally the lack of documents inherent in such Gentlemen's agreements led to very frustrated English Lawyers, but that's another story.
  • Subtle but important point, a verbal contract is any contract which is expressed in words (written or spoken). An oral contract is one which have been agreed by spoken communication, in contrast to a written contract, where the contract is a written document. This is often confused.
  • Legally enforceable under Scottish law; an oral contract is as legally binding as written one.
    • As it is the case in most law systems. Although for certain agreements additional forms are required and thus your word is not enough to uphold the contract.
      • The thing about oral contracts is that you don't have any evidence of agreements and promises. If it's one party's word against the other, barring any witnesses to support one side or the other, courts have no way to intervene.
  • Samuel Goldwyn said, "An oral contract is as good as the paper it's written on," but this is not always the case. Oral contracts, when done correctly before witnesses, can be enforced. For example, in 1984 after Getty Oil was sold to Pennzoil in a handshake deal, Texaco made a higher offer, and the company was sold to Texaco. Pennzoil filed a lawsuit alleging tortuous interference with this oral contract, which the court upheld and awarded $11.1 billion in damages, later reduced to $9.1 billion, but increased again by interest and penalties.
  • The statute of frauds refers to the requirement that certain kinds of contracts be memorialized in a signed writing with sufficient content to evidence the contract. Traditionally, the statute of frauds requires a signed writing in the following circumstances:
    • Contracts in consideration of marriage. This provision covers prenuptial agreements.
    • Contracts which cannot be performed within one year. However, contracts of indefinite duration do not fall under the statute of frauds regardless of how long the performance actually takes.
    • Contracts for the transfer of an interest in land. This applies not only to a contract to sell land but also to any other contract in which land or an interest in it is disposed, such as the grant of a mortgage or an easement.
    • Contracts by the executor of a will to pay a debt of the estate with his own money.
    • Contracts for the sale of goods involving a purchase price of $500 or more (proposed Amended UCC § 2-201(1) requires a writing for contracts for the sale of goods of a price of $5000 or more).
    • Contracts in which one party becomes a surety (acts as guarantor) for another party's debt or other obligation.
  • In the United States, contracts for the sale of goods where the price equals $500 or more (with the exception of professional merchants performing their normal business transactions, or any custom-made items designed for one specific buyer) fall under the statute of frauds under the Uniform Commercial Code (article 2, section 201).
  • Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole ("voice", "spoken word"). Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their word of honor to abide by certain restrictions.