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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 voice) 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, page 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 December 9, Alex Needham, “Anselm Kiefer: ‘Art is difficult, it's not entertainment’”, in The Guardian[1]:
      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. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene i]:
      He professes to haue receiued no sinister measure from his Iudge, but most willingly humbles himselfe to the determination of Iustice [].
    • 1671, John Milton, “(please specify the page)”, in Paradise Regain’d. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is Added, Samson Agonistes, London: [] J. M[acock] for John Starkey [], →OCLC:
      The best and wisest of them all professed / To know this only, that he nothing knew.
    • 1974 February 11, “The Kansas Kickbacks”, in Time:
      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[2], 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 September 28, Hélène Mulholland, “David Miliband voices displeasure during Labour leader's speech”, in The Guardian[3]:
      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[4], 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, 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, published 1984, page 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.]

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