Learn English – “Oath” vs “pledge” vs “vow”


What is the difference between oath, pledge & vow and where should each word be used? An example should suffice.

Best Answer

To me, the nouns pledge and vow are closer in meaning, to the point of being synonyms. They mean “a solemn promise” (this is NOAD's main definition for both). Oath, while close in meaning, typically has an additional sense of invoking the divine (e.g., an oath taken on the bible). A verb with close meaning to all three is to swear.

In addition to this meaning of “solemn promise”, each of these three nouns has specific additional meanings.

  • an oath maybe refer to a profanity or a swear word
  • vows maybe have specific meaning of commiting oneself to a given life, e.g. marriage or monastic vows
  • pledge has an additional legal meaning, synonymous to surety, bond or guarantee