\ 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 These countries collectively owe nearly half a trillion dollars, which is more than 50% of their GDP, a heavy burden for low-income countries, according to data from the Institute of International Finance, a trade association for global banks. Josh Zumbrun And Yuka Hayashi, WSJ, "Coronavirus Deals a Blow to Global Battle Against Poverty," 18 Oct. 2020 Marketwatch notes that around a third of U.S. borrowers, over 100 million Americans, owe money on a vehicle. Sebastian Blanco, Car and Driver, "Auto Loans Were Left out of the CARES Act, and People Are Hurting," 16 Oct. 2020 How, then, do California residents from Asia, Latin America, or Europe owe reparations to the current 6.5 percent of the state’s population that is African American? Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "California’s Illogical Reparations Bill," 8 Oct. 2020 Specifically for the new bond, the owner of a typical home in the district, assessed at $215,000, would owe $215 in 2021, about $250 in 2022 and less after that. oregonlive, "Portland Public Schools asks voters for $1.2 billion to remodel Jefferson High, expand curriculum and tech access: Election 2020 preview," 7 Oct. 2020 If not, Cumberland would owe Georgia Tech $3,000 if the game were not played. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland College 222-0 on this day in 1916," 7 Oct. 2020 This extremely elastic way of interpreting songs may owe, in part, to Salvant’s wide-ranging musical background. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Cecile McLorin Salvant sees MacArthur ‘genius grant’ as nod to her future," 6 Oct. 2020 The Wings owe the Rangers future considerations, trade-speak for a late-round draft pick. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings' Steve Yzerman on Marc Staal trade: We added a future asset," 27 Sep. 2020 Some smaller discrepancies noted could owe to timing issues, as the coroners provide lists of coronavirus victims only periodically, while the Department of Health publicizes new numbers weekly. Gordon Russell | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Coroner data show some nursing homes are undercounting coronavirus deaths," 20 Sep. 2020

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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Owe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owe. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for owe


How to pronounce owe (audio)

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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