\ˈō \
owed; owing

Definition of owe 

transitive verb

1a archaic : possess, own

b : 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.

2a(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

3 : to be indebted for owed his wealth to his father owes much to good luck

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

Still, Sarah has talked all about her weight loss due to health issues, despite her not owing anyone an explanation of her body. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Sarah Hyland's Boyfriend, Wells Adams, Defends Her From Body-Shaming Trolls Yet Again," 22 Oct. 2018 At the time of death, your family may owe a small portion out of pocket due to inflation, but generally speaking, the larger costs are covered. Ace Ratcliff, SELF, "6 Things You Should Do Now to Prepare for Your Own Funeral," 30 Aug. 2018 According to the Post, student debt afflicts as many as 44 million Americans, with the total amount owed in the United States exceeding $1.3 trillion. Aurelie Corinthios, PEOPLE.com, "New Game Show Will Pay Off Winners' Student Debt: 'An Absurd Show to Match an Absurd Crisis'," 10 July 2018 Then in a phone call last week, Frank Dripps was told his benefit would be cut to zero and he had been overpaid for several months and would owe a repayment of $6,000 to $7,000, his wife said. Janelle Walker, Elgin Courier-News, "Family of man who shot 3 officers in South Elgin standoff says he was distraught with health, financial woes," 10 July 2018 The Warriors are nearly $19 million over the luxury tax, and, therefore, owe an additional $61.75 million in luxury tax penalties. Mark Medina, sacbee, "'I'm not trying to create ... forced parity': Why the Warriors don't worry NBA boss," 10 July 2018 Britton, who is owed approximately $6 million before becoming a free agent at season’s end, is two years removed from one of the best seasons ever by a closer. Scott Lauber, Philly.com, "Manny Machado isn't the only Orioles player with ties to Phillies officials," 4 July 2018 The workers are owed roughly $75 million in severance. Michael Corkery, New York Times, "At Toys ‘R’ Us, ‘There Is Nothing Left’: The Day It Closed for Good," 30 June 2018 Deng is owed $18 million in each of the next two seasons and stretching his contract would spread the salary cap hit out over five years, saving the Lakers nearly $12 million on next season’s salary cap. Tania Ganguli, latimes.com, "Lakers and Spurs re-engage in discussions about Kawhi Leonard, extend qualifying offer to Julius Randle," 28 June 2018

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 1a

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

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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).


noxious or harmful

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