\ ˈō How to pronounce owe (audio) \
owed; owing

Definition of owe

transitive verb

1a(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 (something, such as duty or service) I owe you a favor. A lawyer owes her client legal advice.
b : to be indebted to owes the grocer for supplies
2 : to be indebted for owed his wealth to his father owes much to good luck
3a : to have or bear (an emotion or attitude) to someone or something owes the boss a grudge owes his friend an apology They owe allegiance to their country. Children owe their parents respect.
b archaic : possess, own

intransitive verb

1 : to be in debt owes for his house
2 : to be attributable an idea that owes to Greek philosophy
owe it
: to have a responsibility to do something to satisfy an obligation or duty owes it to voters to explain his reasons I owed it to her to give her this opportunity— Colin MacIness

Examples of owe in a Sentence

We owe no income tax. I owe the bank a lot of money. Additional payments are owed on the mortgage. I still owe on the car. I owe you a drink. I owe you my thanks. She still owes me for all the times I've helped her out.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The nonprofit regional health-care system, which is based in Sunnyside, Wash., and generates $240 million in annual revenue, sought protection from creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Spokane and Yakima, owing more than $160 million in debt. ... Becky Yerak, WSJ, "Hospital Operator Astria Health Files for Bankruptcy," 7 May 2019 Braavos: a free city in Essos, home to the Iron Bank — to which the Lannisters owe some gold. John Carucci, The Seattle Times, "It’s not too late to dive into ‘Game of Thrones,’ with help," 13 Apr. 2019 Phoenix has officially sold the massive Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel for $255 million — about $50 million less than what the city owes on it. Dawn Gilbertson, azcentral, "Phoenix sells Sheraton Grand Phoenix for $255 million," 28 June 2018 Soto literally owes the clothes on his back to special interests. Steven Lemongello, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Alan Grayson slams Darren Soto for his support from DeVos family, Texas billionaire in 2016," 26 June 2018 That means less tax is owed on an open lot, compared to a lot with a structure built on it, hence more properties are involved, but the total dollar value is lower than in prior years, according to Sandlass. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Harford County recoups more than $828,000 in annual tax lien sale," 19 June 2018 Privacy - Terms The contractor, Swinerton Builders of San Francisco, filed a $36 million lien on the tower in February, contending the Kings' development group, SG Downtown LLC, owes them and contractors that amount in unpaid work. Tony Bizjak, sacbee, "Kings sue contractor over soaring costs at unfinished downtown tower project," 4 July 2018 In a 2014 lawsuit, Lamar alleged that Dre and Iovine had violated the settlement and owed him lucrative royalties from the sale of later Beats headphones. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine Hit With $25M Verdict at Beats Trial," 27 June 2018 Andrew Azoulay, a broker at Douglas Elliman, claimed Taylor owed him a $1.08 million dollar commission for her purchase of a Tribeca townhouse. Maya Mcdowell, House Beautiful, "Taylor Swift Just Won A $1 Million Legal Battle Against An New York City Real Estate Company," 25 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'owe.' 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 owe

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3b

History and Etymology for owe

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

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Statistics for owe

Last Updated

14 May 2019

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Time Traveler for owe

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

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More Definitions for owe



English Language Learners 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


\ ˈō How to pronounce owe (audio) \
owed; owing

Kids Definition of owe

1 : to be obligated to pay, give, or return I still owe 100 dollars. I don't owe any favors to anyone.
2 : to be in debt to You owe me money.
3 : to have as a result I owe my success to hard work.

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More from Merriam-Webster on owe

Spanish Central: Translation of owe

Nglish: Translation of owe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of owe for Arabic Speakers

Comments on owe

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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