\ 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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Part of this might owe to the differences between them. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 29 Apr. 2022 The student would owe $350 if the fine wasn’t paid by the end of the year. Jennifer Smith Richards, ProPublica, 28 Apr. 2022 If either party scuttles the deal, the responsible side would owe the other party $1 billion under terms of the agreement, according to an SEC filing. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 27 Apr. 2022 If this battle over Izium turns in Ukraine’s favor, the government in Ukraine could owe the victory to a bunch of former taxi drivers and teachers riding in second-line tanks. David Axe, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2022 Social Security recipients who earn wage income might also owe income tax on as much as 85% of their benefits. Anne Tergesen, WSJ, 28 Mar. 2022 The unusually wide-angle perspective may owe something to the fact that the main character, slightly older than the Bildungsroman norm, has a lot of experiential miles behind him. Washington Post, 14 Mar. 2022 With lowest tender amount, the new team would not owe the Browns draft pick compensation. cleveland, 11 Mar. 2022 If he is fired without cause, Auburn would owe Harsin 70 percent of the remaining value of the deal, or about $18 million. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 9 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for owe

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for owe

Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Owe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owe. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for owe


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on owe

Nglish: Translation of owe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of owe for Arabic Speakers


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