pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 3)

2 : the act or occasion of receiving money or material gain especially as compensation or as a bribe
3 : the climax of an incident or enterprise specifically : the denouement of a narrative
4 : a decisive fact or factor resolving a situation or bringing about a definitive conclusion



Definition of payoff (Entry 2 of 3)

: yielding results in the final test : decisive

pay off

paid off; paying off; pays off

Definition of pay off (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to pay (a debt or a creditor) in full
b : to give all due wages to especially : to pay in full and discharge (an employee)
c : bribe
2 : to inflict retribution on
3 : to allow (a thread or rope) to run off a spool or drum

intransitive verb

: to yield returns

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Examples of payoff in a Sentence

Noun You'll have to work hard but there'll be a big payoff in the end. We expected more of a payoff for all our hard work. We made a lot of sacrifices with little payoff. Several city officials have been accused of receiving payoffs from the company. He lost his factory job but received a payoff and a pension. Verb I finally paid off the loan. she paid off the security guard so that she could steal whatever she liked
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The payoff was big: a 12th French Open title, a run to the semifinals at Wimbledon and another United States Open title. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Rafael Nadal Shows Why the Young Guard Will Have to Wait," 9 Sep. 2019 But the payoff is a relaxing soak in a unique setting. Gregory Thomas,, "One Day, One Place: Big Sur," 6 Sep. 2019 But who cares about a little pain when the payoff is so grand? Rosemary Mcclure, Los Angeles Times, "In fall, experience the awe and adventure in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks," 31 Aug. 2019 The payoff is obvious anytime Mann pancakes an opposing defensive back or wins a jump ball. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "High school football: Gophers commit Jonathan Mann is Rosemount’s star receiver, and ideal leader," 28 Aug. 2019 Getting a good photo of your dog can be hard enough (although the payoff is always worth it), but selfies can be even harder. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "Keep an eye on your dog or score the perfect selfie with these gadgets," 26 Aug. 2019 The payoff in a 7-6 loss to the Giants was a ninth-inning homer, his first since July 2, also against the Giants. Jeff Sanders, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres notes: Myers’ momentum, Renfroe’s respect, Lauer’s work," 28 July 2019 There's work to be done, but the payoff could be very good for Michigan. Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football's Karsen Barnhart is a unique OL prospect," 5 July 2019 But even a small fraction of Apple iPhone, iPad, and Mac owners is still a sizable number, allowing for a possible payoff of Apple's investment. Lisa Marie Segarra, Fortune, "Sizing Up Apple Arcade, the Newest Contender in the Game Subscription Category," 11 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb All of her hard work paid off, as children—including her own Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing in the first iteration. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton's New Garden Design Has a Hedgehog-Shaped Treehouse," 4 Sep. 2019 These actions will pay off by improving children’s health nationwide. Maura C. Allaire, The Conversation, "How to address America’s lead crisis and provide safe drinking water for all," 3 Sep. 2019 In the event e-commerce doesn’t pay off for Jumia as losses continue to mount, its management appears to already have a semblance of a strategic pivot in place. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "Jumia wants to spin off its payments business as it struggles to stem mounting losses," 22 Aug. 2019 With all rent covered for two years, the family could pay off debt and get the financial stability to qualify for a first-time homebuyer mortgage in Perris. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Children with special health needs have a carefree day in the Newport surf," 12 Aug. 2019 The pact approved Tuesday is a compromise in which the banks agree to slash the debt in half, to $2.5 million; the GulfQuest foundation pays off $500,000; and the city commits to pay the rest in the form of five annual $400,000 payments., "Mobile council commits $2 million to GulfQuest debt," 23 July 2019 All of Gaten's hard work is paying off, because the young actor is reportedly worth $4 million! Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "“Stranger Things” Star Gaten Matarazzo's Net Worth Will Truly Blow Your Mind," 15 July 2019 Great day Dray at Top 100 central Florida camp, all your hard work is starting to pay off. Henry Mckenna, For The Win, "Devin Hester's son looks like a devastatingly elusive flag football player," 15 July 2019 That approach has paid off in a paper published today in Science Advances, in which Ouellette and his colleagues used a strategy inspired by materials science to analyze the dynamics of a flying swarm. Quanta Magazine, "How Swarming Insects Act Like Fluids," 10 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'payoff.' 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 payoff


1905, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1932, in the meaning defined above


1607, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for payoff

Last Updated

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for payoff

The first known use of payoff was in 1607

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More Definitions for payoff


How to pronounce pay off (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of payoff

: a good result : the advantage or benefit that is gained from doing something
: something valuable (such as money) that you give to someone for doing something and especially for doing something illegal or dishonest
British : money that a company gives to a worker who is being forced to leave a job


pay·​off | \ ˈpā-ˌȯf How to pronounce payoff (audio) \

Legal Definition of payoff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act or an instance of paying someone off : bribe — compare kickback
2 : the act of paying a debt or creditor in full would release the lien upon the payoff of the balance

Legal Definition of pay off (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to pay (a debt or credit) in full the loan was paid off
2 : bribe

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Comments on payoff

What made you want to look up payoff? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

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