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verb \ˈō\

Simple Definition of owe

  • : to need to pay or repay money to a person, bank, business, etc.

  • : to need to do or give something to someone who has done something for you or given something to you

  • —used to say that something should be done for or given to someone

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of owe


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a archaic :  possess, own b :  to have or bear (an emotion or attitude) to someone or something <owes the boss a grudge>

  3. 2 a (1) :  to be under obligation to pay or repay in return for something received :  be indebted in the sum of <owes me $5> (2) :  to be under obligation to render (as duty or service) <I owe you a favor> b :  to be indebted to <owes the grocer for supplies>

  4. 3 :  to be indebted for <owed his wealth to his father> <owes much to good luck>

  5. intransitive verb
  6. 1 :  to be in debt <owes for his house>

  7. 2 :  to be attributable <an idea that owes to Greek philosophy>

owe it
  1. :  to have a responsibility to do something to satisfy an obligation or duty <owes it to voters to explain his reasons>

Examples of owe in a sentence

  1. We owe no income tax.

  2. I owe the bank a lot of money.

  3. Additional payments are owed on the mortgage.

  4. I still owe on the car.

  5. I owe you a drink.

  6. I owe you my thanks.

  7. She still owes me for all the times I've helped her out.

Origin of owe

Middle English, to possess, own, owe, from Old English āgan; akin to Old High German eigun (1st & 3d plural present indicative) possess, Sanskrit īśe he possesses

First Known Use: before 12th century

OWE Defined for Kids


verb \ˈō\

Definition of owe for Students


  1. 1 :  to be obligated to pay, give, or return <I still owe 100 dollars.> <I don't owe any favors to anyone.>

  2. 2 :  to be in debt to <You owe me money.>

  3. 3 :  to have as a result <I owe my success to hard work.>

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