\ 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

Zesa, which also relies on importing power from neighboring countries, owes South Africa’s Eskom around $23 million in unpaid bills. Farai Shawn Matiashe, Quartz Africa, "Zimbabwe turns to Tesla batteries to keep its top mobile money player running as a power crisis deepens," 13 Sep. 2019 These days, the Wii U GamePad owes a debt of gratitude to this little screen-in-a-controller. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "What Sega’s Dreamcast launch keynote would have looked like, 20 years ago," 9 Sep. 2019 The film’s lively dynamics owe much to the bristly nature of nearly every relationship and interaction in the film. Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Ford v Ferrari': Film Review | Telluride 2019," 31 Aug. 2019 Criminal networks What is known about rosewood criminal operations in Guatemala owes largely to the efforts of Public Prosecutor Aura López’s environmental crimes office. Carlos Duarte, National Geographic, "The fight to protect the world’s most trafficked wild commodity," 16 Aug. 2019 New England’s 13-3 victory in Atlanta seven months ago didn’t owe entirely to great defense. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Despite flaws, NFL game remains more watchable than NBA, MLB," 30 Aug. 2019 In 2010, Miller owed close to $400,000 in real estate taxes on her Pittsburgh studio and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Associated Press reported. Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Why Did ‘Dance Moms’ Star Abby Lee Miller Go To Prison? Everything You Need to Know," 17 Aug. 2019 The monitor says that QuadrigaCX owes 76,000 users around $215 million CAD (or around $163 million USD), but investigators have only recovered around $33 million. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Canadian crypto exchange owner allegedly funneled money into secret accounts," 24 June 2019 At Adidas, the contrast may feel especially pronounced because the company, though founded and based in Germany, owes a good deal of its image to black Americans. Marc Bain, Quartz at Work, "Black Americans are the faces of Adidas, but missing from its leadership," 19 June 2019

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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Statistics for owe

Last Updated

1 Oct 2019

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 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.

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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

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