bor·row | \ ˈbär-(ˌ)ō , ˈbȯr- \
borrowed; borrowing; borrows

Definition of borrow 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to receive with the implied or expressed intention of returning the same or an equivalent borrow a book from the library borrowed a dollar borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor

b finance : to borrow (money) with the intention of returning the same plus interest (see interest entry 1 sense 3a) borrow money from the bank

2a : to appropriate for one's own use borrow a metaphor from Shakespeare

b : derive, adopt traditions borrowed from African polytheism

3 mathematics : to take (one) from a digit of the minuend in arithmetical subtraction in order to add as 10 to the digit holding the next lower place

4 : to adopt into one language from another The English word "entrepreneur" was borrowed from French.

5 dialect : lend Borrow me your pencil.

intransitive verb

: to borrow something borrows heavily from Nietzsche

borrow trouble

: to do something unnecessarily that may result in adverse reaction or repercussions


biographical name
Bor·row | \ ˈbär-(ˌ)ō \

Definition of Borrow (Entry 2 of 2)

George Henry 1803–1881 English author

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Other words from borrow


borrower \ˈbär-ə-wər, ˈbȯr- \ noun

Synonyms for borrow

Synonyms: Verb

adopt, embrace, espouse, take on, take up

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Examples of borrow in a Sentence


The twins often borrow each other's clothes. I'm borrowing a friend's car for the weekend. He borrowed the book from the library. Will you see if we can borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbors? She borrowed $20 from me. The speech was peppered with phrases borrowed from Winston Churchill. She borrowed the technique from local artisans.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Some borrowers, especially large companies, have been able to borrow freely for years. Emily Flitter, New York Times, "Bank Earnings Climb in Growing Economy, but Lending Doesn’t Keep Pace," 13 July 2018 But to hit that maximum, students would need to borrow for a fifth year. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Students aren't the only ones crushed by school debt," 11 July 2018 Who’s gonna fill their shoes, to borrow some country-music vernacular? Mike Hembree, USA TODAY, "Is NASCAR's young crop of drivers feeling pressure to perform, replace departed stars?," 6 July 2018 The threat of losing the right to borrow has proven to be a stronger incentive for patrons, Kambitsch said. Cornelius Frolik, ajc, "Since Ohio library ended late fees, more materials getting returned," 6 July 2018 To borrow a federal student loan, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Anna Helhoski,, "Student loan interest rates just went up again," 6 July 2018 Beauty, to borrow a cliché, is in the eye of the beholder. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "Reality+ Explores How to Change the Way the World Literally Sees You," 26 June 2018 To borrow a phrase from Gossip Girl... spotted: D. flashing peace signs at Google Maps. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "Did Google Maps Accidentally Capture "13 Reasons Why" While They Were Filming Season 1?," 19 June 2018 The Three Stripes’ Deerupt is a low-top sneaker that seems to have borrowed colors from the Skittles factory and is covered by mesh that makes a wearer’s feet look like one of Beyoncé’s fishnetted backup dancers. Cam Wolf, GQ, "The Rules of the Gym, According to the Hot Dudes of ‘Insecure’," 15 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'borrow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of borrow


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for borrow


Middle English borwen, from Old English borgian; akin to Old English beorgan to preserve — more at bury

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Statistics for borrow

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for borrow

The first known use of borrow was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for borrow



English Language Learners Definition of borrow

: to take and use (something that belongs to someone else) for a period of time before returning it

: to take and use up (something) with the promise to give back something of equal value

: to use (an idea, saying, etc.) that was thought up by someone else


bor·row | \ ˈbär-ō \
borrowed; borrowing

Kids Definition of borrow

1 : to take and use something with the promise of returning it Can I borrow your pen?

2 : to use something begun or thought up by another : adopt borrow an idea

3 : to adopt into one language from another Many English words are borrowed from French.

Other words from borrow

borrower \ˈbär-ə-wər \ noun

Legal Definition of borrow 

: to take or receive temporarily specifically : to receive (money) with the intention of returning the same plus interest

Other words from borrow

borrower noun

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Comments on borrow

What made you want to look up borrow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make amends

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