bor·​row ˈbär-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce borrow (audio)
borrowed; borrowing; borrows

transitive verb

: 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
finance : to borrow (money) with the intention of returning the same plus interest (see interest entry 1 sense 3a)
borrow money from the bank
: to appropriate for one's own use
borrow a metaphor from Shakespeare
: derive, adopt
traditions borrowed from African polytheism
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
: to adopt into one language from another
The English word "entrepreneur" was borrowed from French.
dialect : lend
Borrow me your pencil.

intransitive verb

: to borrow something
borrows heavily from Nietzsche
borrower noun
borrow trouble
: to do something unnecessarily that may result in adverse reaction or repercussions

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Prosecutors said that earlier that day, Dorsey called Sarah Bonnie seeking to borrow money to pay two drug dealers who were at his apartment. CBS News, 5 Apr. 2024 That leaves Saudi Arabia having to borrow on capital markets to fulfill its ambitions: Government debt has soared about 20-fold, to $253.6 billion, since 2014, according to research firm CEIC Data. Vivienne Walt, Fortune, 4 Apr. 2024 Typically, the fee for borrowing stock is a fraction of a percentage point. Joe Rennison, New York Times, 3 Apr. 2024 Local governments borrow money from Wall Street by selling bonds, then use property taxes to pay back the debt over decades. Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald, 3 Apr. 2024 Meanwhile, white artists routinely borrow production and vocal techniques from Black artists. Stephen Deusner, SPIN, 1 Apr. 2024 Doctor No producers borrowed real research equipment from labs to create a nuclear facility for the villain grounded in real science. Leslie Katz, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Toho’s Godzilla movies swing back and forth between silly fun and serious social commentary depending on the state of the Japanese economy, and the way that Japanese and American Godzilla movies borrow from one another says a lot about the cultural dynamics between the two countries. Katie Rife,, 28 Mar. 2024 Through some combination of reverence and laziness, American soccer has borrowed many of its chants from the British. Hanif Abdurraqib, The New Yorker, 24 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'borrow.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near borrow

Cite this Entry

“Borrow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


bor·​row ˈbär-ō How to pronounce borrow (audio)
: to take or receive something with the promise or intention of returning it
: to take for one's own use something begun or thought up by another : adopt
borrow an idea
: to take 1 from the digit in a minuend and add it as 10 to the digit in the next lower place
borrower noun

Legal Definition


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

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Bor·​row ˈbär-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce Borrow (audio)
George Henry 1803–1881 English author

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