owe

verb

owed; owing

transitive verb

1
a(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
3
a
: 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
Phrases
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 opportunityColin MacIness

Example Sentences

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 Several low-income countries are at risk of debt default in 2023 and many of them owe large sums to China. Fatima Hussein, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Jan. 2023 Several low-income countries are at risk of debt default in 2023 and many of them owe large sums to China. Fatima Hussein, Chicago Tribune, 18 Jan. 2023 Several low-income countries are at risk of debt default in 2023 and many of them owe large sums to China. Fatima Hussein, ajc, 18 Jan. 2023 The band’s rap-rock hybrids owe much to the turn-of-the-millennium period when rapped lyrics, arena-ready hooks and ferocious beats were fast friends, with the addition of elements borrowed from contemporary trap and electronic music. Chris Kelly, Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2023 The Pistons owe one future first-round pick (to New York), but currently can only trade their 2029 first-round pick due to the pick protections on the outgoing pick. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, 18 Jan. 2023 Movie theater operators owe a debt of gratitude to the Na’vi and the new queen of artificial intelligence. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 15 Jan. 2023 After all, no one succeeds alone — even the most acclaimed of leaders owe their accomplishments to countless people who helped them along their journey. Chris Schembra, Rolling Stone, 30 Dec. 2022 The Minnesota Vikings owe much of their success this season to the right foot of Greg Joseph. Jacob Gurvis, Sun Sentinel, 29 Dec. 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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3b

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

Cite this Entry

“Owe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owe. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

owe

verb
owed; owing
1
a
: to be obligated to pay or repay
owes me $5
b
: to be indebted to
owes the grocer for supplies
c
: to be in debt
owes for her house
2
: to have or possess as something obtained from or given to
owes much to good luck

More from Merriam-Webster on owe

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