\ 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

This change could lead to a surprise tax balance owed. OrlandoSentinel.com, "Widow considers changing tax withholding in second year filing single," 12 July 2018 Although debtors prisons were banned in the U.S. nearly 200 years ago, some people who owe money are once again being jailed for civil debts, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "He strangled his wife so she wouldn't go to jail for car debt, Texas cops say," 10 July 2018 But Jeff of All Trades, a Tulsa handyman company, went to the rental store and paid everything Perry owed on the unreturned DVD. BostonGlobe.com, "Emissions issues plague Daimler truck engines," 9 July 2018 The pièce de résistance, a lightweight afro pick, owes its name to Angola’s Queen Nzinga, who fought to protect her kingdom from colonization in the 17th century. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Byredo’s New Keepsake Combs Pay Tribute to Africa’s Beloved Queens," 13 July 2018 In turn, Pitino has sued Louisville for breach of contract, arguing the school owes him the $39 million remaining on his deal. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "Should the NCAA Be Worried About the Lawsuit It's Facing From Former Louisville Players?," 12 July 2018 In fact, the McGill video owes its existence in part to an exemplar of the genre. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "A ‘Cancer Cure’ Video Skewered Bad Science—and Went Viral Itself," 10 July 2018 Europe owes its sporting power today to a long-running outreach into poor suburbs or neighborhoods, giving kids of all backgrounds access to coaches and fields and facilities — and teams more talent to choose from. Angela Charlton, The Seattle Times, "Migration, outreach mean diversity is soccer’s new normal," 10 July 2018 Europe owes its sporting power today to a long-running outreach into poor suburbs or neighborhoods, giving kids of all backgrounds access to coaches and fields and facilities – and teams more talent to choose from. Angela Charlton, The Christian Science Monitor, "World Cup puts a different spotlight on immigration for European teams," 10 July 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

17 Sep 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).


to make amends

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