[uhn-der-tey-king, uhn-der-tey- for 1–3; uhn-der-tey-king for 4]
the act of a person who undertakes any task or responsibility.
a task, enterprise, etc., undertaken.
a promise; pledge; guarantee.
the business of an undertaker or funeral director.

1325–75; Middle English; see under, taking

2. project, endeavor, job, effort, venture.
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verb (used with object), undertook, undertaken, undertaking.
to take upon oneself, as a task, performance, etc.; attempt: She undertook the job of answering all the mail.
to promise, agree, or obligate oneself (followed by an infinitive): The married couple undertook to love, honor, and cherish each other.
to warrant or guarantee (followed by a clause): The sponsors undertake that their candidate meets all the requirements.
to take in charge; assume the duty of attending to: The lawyer undertook a new case.
verb (used without object), undertook, undertaken, undertaking.
Archaic. to engage oneself by promise; give a guarantee, or become surety.

1150–1200; Middle English undertaken; see under-, take

preundertake, verb (used with object), preundertook, preundertaken, preundertaking.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
undertake (ˌʌndəˈteɪk)
vb (foll by for) , -takes, -taking, -took, -taken
1.  (tr) to contract to or commit oneself to (something) or (to do something): to undertake a job; to undertake to deliver the goods
2.  (tr) to attempt to; agree to start
3.  (tr) to take (someone) in charge
4.  archaic to make oneself responsible (for)
5.  (tr) to promise

undertaking (ˈʌndəˌteɪkɪŋ)
1.  something undertaken; task, venture, or enterprise
2.  an agreement to do something
3.  the business of an undertaker
4.  informal the practice of overtaking on an inner lane a vehicle which is travelling in an outer lane

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1200, "to entrap," in the same sense as O.E. underniman (cf. Du. ondernemen, Ger. unternehmen), of which it is a partial loan-translation, from under + take. Cf. also Fr. entreprendre "to undertake," from entre "between, among" + prendre "to take."
The under in this word may be the same one that also may form the first element of understand. Meaning "to accept" is attested from mid-13c.; that of "to take upon oneself, to accept the duty of" is from c.1300. Undertaking "enterprise" is recorded from early 15c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
But modest efforts often may return values far beyond the cost and scope of an
For many scientists, meeting that requirement is a major undertaking.
Other leading firms are also undertaking painful restructuring.
Finding a vaccine has become an increasingly urgent undertaking.
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