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 borrower (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 Interest rates in Europe and Japan fell below zero, while U.S. companies borrowed more than ever. Matt Wirz, WSJ, "After a Tumultuous Decade, Bond Investors See Rocky Times Ahead," 30 Dec. 2019 The new vehicle required borrowing an additional $19,000. Phoebe Wall Howard,, "He had to drive a defective Ford Focus home in reverse. Now he blames automaker for debt," 26 Dec. 2019 The team used reinforcement learning, which borrows concepts from the psychology term by the same name. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Bad News for Dads: Robots Can Grill Hot Dogs Now," 23 Dec. 2019 In the same way that friends today might exchange or borrow clothes on a whim, the bond between Jo and Laurie bleeds into every part of their lives, and the two swap outfits like any close friends would. Braden Bjella, Teen Vogue, "How Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet’s “Little Women” Costumes Defy Gender Stereotypes," 19 Dec. 2019 Librarian Cyndi Larsen will lead the meetings and copies are of each book are available for borrowing at the library. Carole Goldberg,, "Write Stuff: Retired New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff at Mark Twain House," 12 Dec. 2019 One technique is known as the carry trade, where one borrows at a low-interest rate and invests in higher-yielding longer-term bonds. John Moorlach, Orange County Register, "Lessons from Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy: John Moorlach," 8 Dec. 2019 Americans have been able to improve their standard of living only by both working more and borrowing more. Thomas Cooke, Quartz, "Americans have stopped relocating, and it could dramatically affect society," 7 Dec. 2019 Such a capital plan — traditionally accomplished via borrowing — will be front and center when lawmakers return to St. Paul in February. Dave Orrick, Twin Cities, "Minnesota might have $1.3 billion extra in the bank. Will lawmakers fight about it?," 5 Dec. 2019

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

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Borrow.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for borrow


How to pronounce Borrow (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on borrow

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for borrow

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with borrow

Spanish Central: Translation of borrow

Nglish: Translation of borrow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of borrow for Arabic Speakers

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).


a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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