\ 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 There is a disconnect between what passengers think they are owed and what airlines owe them when flight plans go haywire thanks to a patchwork of federal regulations and airline policies. Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY, 15 Oct. 2021 Because the earlier version of the CTC required families to have a tax liability — in other words, to earn money and owe taxes on it — to receive the full credit, that provided a form of work incentive, University of Chicago's Meyer said. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 12 Oct. 2021 But Pierre d’Alencon, a count, has enlisted the clever Le Gris to collect debts from all who owe him. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 11 Oct. 2021 This is what all of us owe our team members and our clients – the best possible solutions to meet their unique needs. Robert Reiss, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 If the editorial board had its wish, families would receive the credit only if parents owe federal taxes, cutting off 27 million kids—including half of black and Latino children. WSJ, 28 Sep. 2021 Such as: What do any of us owe our parents for having us? Washington Post, 28 June 2021 Offset language existed in that contract, so whatever salary the Cowboys are paying McAdoo will be deducted from what the Jaguars owe him. Michael Gehlken, Dallas News, 26 May 2021 But if a tax filer doesn't owe any money, there is generally no penalty for a late filing within three years of the due date. Katie Lobosco, CNN, 15 May 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

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Owe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owe. Accessed 27 Oct. 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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