\ ˈō How to pronounce owe (audio) \
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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

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 Apparently there’s an easier way to keep track of who owes what among friends than just constantly Venmoing each other and sending updates in a group chat. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "These are the apps we love to recommend," 6 Dec. 2018 Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has converted a further £66.4m the club owes him into equity. SI.com, "Credit Where It's Due: Vincent Tan Slashes Cardiff City's Debt Ahead of Premier League Return," 6 July 2018 In other cases, agents miscalculated the monthly amount owed, resulting in payments that were too big or too small, the report said. Michelle Hackman, WSJ, "Education Department Faulted on Student Loan Servicers," 14 Feb. 2019 As of April 30, the amounts owed range from $2,240 to $96,848. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "Berlin Tax Deed Auction Targets Chronic Delinquent Properties," 13 July 2018 Among those concerns was who would be responsible for paying potentially tens of millions of dollars owed on certain contracts that may be assigned to Lantern. Washington Post, "Judge approves revised Weinstein Co. bankruptcy sale plan," 11 July 2018 The eviction suit says PharmaTech at some point sublet the space to ANDAPharm, which failed to pay rent owed on May 1. Ron Hurtibise, Sun-Sentinel.com, "More lawsuits filed against South Florida drug maker accused of selling contaminated medicines," 29 June 2018 Total bills owed have shrunk to just under $4 million in May, from $16.5 million in June 2017, MGT Executive Vice President Eric Parish and CFO Leonard Moody said. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "Gary schools detail progress on debt as unions say it came at their expense," 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about owe

Statistics for owe

Last Updated

5 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for owe

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!