\ 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 Keeping the prices at the $9,000 per megawatt hour cap created $16 billion in additional charges that utilities such as CPS now owe, according to Potomac Economic, an independent market monitor that oversees the ERCOT market. Diego Mendoza-moyers, San Antonio Express-News, "CPS battles surprise bills from ERCOT in court," 30 Apr. 2021 Others can’t stand to pay interest and owe someone else money. Ben Carlson, Fortune, "Bitcoin, Tesla, Ethereum: When should you take profits on your biggest investing winners?," 29 Apr. 2021 And if the Wolves wind up in the lottery again in 2022 and still owe Golden State that pick, it would be unprotected and could therefore be No. 1 overall. Michael Rand, Star Tribune, "The real loser as Timberwolves keep winning could be Golden State," 28 Apr. 2021 His account of fleeing Islamic State territory on a motorbike—somehow avoiding throngs of trigger-happy militants and their checkpoints—was risible, and may owe something to the wartime caper The Great Escape. James Harkin, Harper's Magazine, "Sign of the Times," 27 Apr. 2021 In a report out this week, KFF estimated that insurers may owe $2.1 billion in rebates for last year’s policies, the second-highest amount issued under the ACA. NBC News, "Some health insurers ending waivers for Covid treatment fees," 26 Apr. 2021 However, the meme falsely claims that the Rev. Al Sharpton owed $19 million in taxes, when in fact he was reported to owe $4.5 million. Bayliss Wagner, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Viral meme compares Al Sharpton's tax troubles with Willie Nelson's," 22 Apr. 2021 Studies show that white men have paid off 44% of their student loans twelve years out of college, while Black women owe 13% more. Kori Hale, Forbes, "Here’s How $50,000 In Student Loan Forgiveness Will Impact The Racial Wealth Gap," 21 Apr. 2021 Best for: People who need more than 120 days to pay their taxes in full and owe more than $50,000. ProPublica, "Where Can I Get Tax Forms?," 19 Apr. 2021

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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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 2021

Cite this Entry

“Owe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owe. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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.

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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