noun (1)
\ ˈpȯn How to pronounce pawn (audio) , ˈpän \

Definition of pawn

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : one of the chessmen of least value having the power to move only forward ordinarily one square at a time, to capture only diagonally forward, and to be promoted to any piece except a king upon reaching the eighth rank
2 : one that can be used to further the purposes of another


noun (2)

Definition of pawn (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : something delivered to or deposited with another as security for a loan
b : hostage
2 : the state of being pledged
3 : something used as a pledge : guaranty
4 : the act of pawning


pawned; pawning; pawns

Definition of pawn (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to deposit in pledge or as security especially in exchange for money

Other Words from pawn


pawner \ ˈpȯ-​nər How to pronounce pawn (audio) , ˈpä-​ \ or less commonly pawnor \ ˈpȯ-​nər How to pronounce pawn (audio) , ˈpä-​ ; pȯ-​ˈnȯr , pä-​ \ noun

Synonyms for pawn

Synonyms: Noun (1)

Synonyms: Noun (2)

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of pawn in a Sentence

Verb She was forced to pawn her diamond ring. he pawned his antique watch in order to pay off his gambling debt

First Known Use of pawn

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1566, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pawn

Noun (1)

Middle English powne, paun, borrowed from Anglo-French poun, paun, peoun "person traveling on foot, pawn in chess" (continental Old French also peon, pion "foot soldier"), going back to Late Latin pedōn-, pedō "person with flat feet, person going on foot" (Medieval Latin, "foot soldier") from Latin ped-, pēs foot entry 1 + -ōn-, -ō, suffix of nouns denoting persons with a prominent characteristic

Note: Anglo-French poun, paun reflects northern or eastern French dialects, where metaphony of the original pretonic front vowel has apparently resulted in a back vowel—unlike central French, where /ɛ/ was raised to /i/ and later lost syllabicity (hence Modern French pion). In Middle English—in at least the realization that has survived in Modern English—the vowel nucleus fell in with the au diphthong that arose from French an- plus a dental consonant. Compare pioneer entry 1, peon.

Noun (2)

Middle English pawyn, paun, borrowed from Middle French (Walloon, French Flanders) pan "pledge, surety," probably borrowed from one or more Germanic words, as Middle Dutch and Middle Low German pant "security, pledge," going back to West Germanic *panda- (whence also Old Frisian pand, pond "surety," Old Saxon pand, Old High German pfant), of uncertain origin

Note: The vowel of the Modern English word reflects an earlier diphthong that is the regular Anglo-French outcome of -an- plus a dental consonant, though textual evidence for pan in Anglo-French appears to be lacking. In Scots the word is attested as pawnd in 1431, several decades earlier than the first attestations in England, and forms with a final d still are found in Scotland in the eighteenth century. The earliest and apparently the sole Medieval Latin evidence for pandum in Britain is also in a Scottish text, from the twelfth century. As pan "pledge" in medieval French is identical with pan "piece of cloth, tail of a shirt" (see pane), it has been claimed that they are the same word, a piece of cloth having served as the token of a surety given to a creditor; the Germanic words would then have been borrowed from French. This would leave the final -t/-d of the Germanic words unexplained, however. Moreover, the Germanic words are attested earlier—eighth century for Old High German pfant, eleventh century for Old Saxon pand—while the French word is apparently first attested in 1214 (per Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch), and from regions (French Flanders, Hainaut, Lorraine) in contact with Germanic speakers. The source of the Germanic word is uncertain—see discussion in Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Althochdeutschen. If the word was a borrowing of Latin pondus "weight" (see pound entry 1), it must have taken place at a very early date, before the separation of a and o by quantity in proto-Germanic.


derivative of pawn entry 2

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Time Traveler for pawn

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The first known use of pawn was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near pawn

pawl rim



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Last Updated

23 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pawn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for pawn


\ ˈpȯn How to pronounce pawn (audio) \

Kids Definition of pawn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the piece of least value in the game of chess
2 : a person who has little power and is controlled by a more powerful person or group


pawned; pawning

Kids Definition of pawn (Entry 2 of 2)

: to leave as a guarantee of repayment for a loan He pawned a watch.


\ ˈpȯn How to pronounce pawn (audio) \

Legal Definition of pawn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a pledge and transfer of possession of movable or personal property to a creditor which gives the creditor the privilege of satisfying the debt from the property (as by selling it) if the debt is not repaid within a specified time also : the property pledged shall not take as a pawn any workman's tools — compare antichresis
b : the state of being so pledged or burdened by such a pledge goods held in pawn
2 : the act of pawning


transitive verb

Legal Definition of pawn (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put (personal or movable property) in pawn when it is redeemed by the person who pawned it — compare hypothecate

Other Words from pawn

pawner \ ˈpȯ-​nər How to pronounce pawn (audio) \ or pawnor \ same or pȯ-​ˈnȯr \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on pawn

Nglish: Translation of pawn for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pawn for Arabic Speakers


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