bor·​row | \ ˈbär-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce borrow (audio) , 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 How to pronounce Borrow (audio) \

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 How to pronounce Borrow (audio) , ˈbȯr-​ \ noun

Synonyms for borrow

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of borrow in a Sentence

Verb 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 However, to make up the $9 billion difference, the state would have to increase taxes on high-income residents, cut budgets across the board and borrow funding. Steve Bittenbender, Washington Examiner, "Cuomo says New York will have to raise taxes if it doesn't get $15B from federal government," 20 Jan. 2021 The fear is that behind the support lies increasingly fragile government finances, as countries borrow aggressively to counteract the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ, "Banks Pile Into Government Debt, Setting Up ‘Doom Loop’ Sequel in Europe," 30 Dec. 2020 The new legislation would increase the amount restaurants and hotels can borrow through the PPP to 3.5 times monthly payroll. Keith Spera,, "Stimulus bill offers 'bridge to survival' for many New Orleans small businesses," 24 Dec. 2020 Each branch will have at least 85 hot spots available that patrons can borrow for up to a month. Dallas News, "Dallas adds 2,100 mobile hot spot devices to library system," 4 Dec. 2020 Pac-12 championship game that athletic departments will have the option to borrow against future earnings. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "University of Utah spent $95M to fund athletics in 2019-20 school year," 25 Jan. 2021 Biden can count on backing from Wall Street investors this time to borrow. Josh Boak, ajc, "Biden's test: Engineering economic boom in a partisan divide," 18 Jan. 2021 In a season format that seems to borrow heavily from college football, why not pair up Big Ten Country with SEC Nation? Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "NHL Central Division misery index: What if the Big Ten and SEC had a hockey-playing baby?," 18 Jan. 2021 Any number of politicians went on to borrow King’s thesis to fit their own electoral platforms, a version of which appeared as the platform of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ presidential run in 2004. John Myers, Los Angeles Times, "Essential Politics: One week, two Americas as a new president takes office," 18 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for borrow

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for borrow

Last Updated

16 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Borrow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce borrow (audio) \
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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