I've been listening to many songs and came across these two lyrics

Oh, goddamn.
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand.
Taking mine, but it's been promised to another
(Ivy by Taylor Swift)

He told me that the life of my dreams
Would be promised and someday be mine
(We don't talk about Bruno by V.A.)

I kinda get that in both cases, the word "promised" here means something related to marriage or engagement. However, I can't find any dictionaries or websites that prove this. Is what I understand true?

  • 2
    You can promise anything (tangible or intangible) to anyone at all. The two things promised are very different in your texts. One is pain and the other is a life of dreams.
    – Lambie
    May 8, 2023 at 15:05
  • 2
    BTW, the phrase, "being promised in marriage", is a common in English, particularly in literature predating 1900, though it's still often used: books.google.com/ngrams/… May 9, 2023 at 1:09

1 Answer 1


You can promise to do something (eg "I promise to behave"), but you can also promise something to someone (eg "A gift was promised me"). As well as that, 'promised' can be an adjective to describe something or someone that has been the direct object of a promise (eg "the promised land").

If something has been promised to someone, it is like it has been reserved for that person for a future time.

'Promised' is also intrinsically linked to marriage and commitment within relationships. A person who is engaged is said to be 'promised' to their partner. This is the kind of use that the song lyrics allude to but, like a lot of lyrics or poetry, it doesn't really reflect everyday speech.

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