The development of nursing knowledge and interventions involve understanding human responses and needs The human response of hope was identified as a concept in need of further clarification The purpose of this paper was to review definitions and contextual usage of the word ‘hope’ from the literature and answer the conceptual question ‘What is hope?’Literature from theology, philosophy, psychology and nursing was reviewed for contextual usage of the word ‘hope’ In the literature, hope was viewed as part of human development, a process, a theory and a source of meaning in life In addition, antecendents, attributes and outcomes of hope were identified from the literature that contributed to a clearer understanding of the concept