\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce paid (audio) \ also in sense 7 payed; paying

Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to make due return to for services rendered or property delivered paid the pizza deliverer
b : to engage for money : hire You couldn't pay me to do that. paid a teenager to mow his lawn
2a : to give in return for goods or service pay wages
b : to discharge indebtedness for : settle pay a bill
c : to make a disposal or transfer of (money) paid a few dollars weekly into a savings account
3 : to give or forfeit in expiation or retribution pay the penalty
4a : to make compensation (see compensation sense 2) for His trouble was well paid in the end.
b : to requite according to what is deserved pay them back
5 : to give, offer, or make freely or as fitting pay attention pay your respects
6a : to return value or profit to it pays you to stay open
b : to bring in as a return an investment paying five percent
7 : to slacken (something, such as a rope) and allow to run out used with outpaid out the rope as it jerked taut

intransitive verb

1 : to discharge a debt or obligation I'll pay when I have the money.
2 : to be worth the expense or effort crime doesn't pay
3 : to suffer the consequences of an act He paid for his crime.
pay one's dues
1 : to earn a right or position through experience, suffering, or hard work He's paid his dues and deserves a promotion.
2 or less commonly pay dues : pay sense intransitive 3
pay one's way or pay one's own way
: to pay one's share of expenses She took a part-time job to pay her own way through college.
pay the piper
: to bear the cost of something You have to do what they say because they are paying the piper.
pay through the nose
: to pay exorbitantly or dearly I found the perfect dress, but I had to pay through the nose for it.



Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : something paid for a purpose and especially as a salary or wage : remuneration
2a : the act or fact of paying or being paid
b : the status of being paid by an employer : employ
3 : a person viewed with respect to reliability or promptness in paying debts or bills
4a : ore or a natural deposit that yields metal and especially gold in profitable amounts
b : an oil-yielding stratum or zone

Definition of pay (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : containing or leading to something precious or valuable
2 : equipped with a coin slot for receiving a fee for use a pay telephone
3 : requiring payment
payed also paid; paying

Definition of pay (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to coat with a waterproof composition

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Choose the Right Synonym for pay

Verb (1)

pay, compensate, remunerate, satisfy, reimburse, indemnify, repay, recompense mean to give money or its equivalent in return for something. pay implies the discharge of an obligation incurred. paid their bills compensate implies a making up for services rendered. an attorney well compensated for her services remunerate clearly suggests paying for services rendered and may extend to payment that is generous or not contracted for. promised to remunerate the searchers handsomely satisfy implies paying a person what is required by law. all creditors will be satisfied in full reimburse implies a return of money that has been spent for another's benefit. reimbursed employees for expenses indemnify implies making good a loss suffered through accident, disaster, warfare. indemnified the families of the dead miners repay stresses paying back an equivalent in kind or amount. repay a favor with a favor recompense suggests due return in amends, friendly repayment, or reward. passengers were recompensed for the delay

Examples of pay in a Sentence

Noun He has been suspended without pay pending the results of the investigation. Each pay period begins on the first of the month. Workers received a $4,000 pay increase. I took a significant pay cut when I took this job, but I think it was worth it.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Next month, Earth will be paid a visit from an old cosmic friend: a two-mile-wide asteroid called (52768) 1998 OR2 that will come within about 4 million miles of our planet. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Biggest Asteroid to Fly by This Year Will Zoom Past Earth Next Month," 5 Mar. 2020 Offshore data leaks and the collapse in white-collar crime enforcement suggest that criminal liability and paying taxes are just for the little people. Alison Taylor, Quartz at Work, "The corporate responsibility facade is finally starting to crumble," 4 Mar. 2020 But about two dozen civic, religious and community leaders pushed back, saying the money was desperately needed for where it had been earmarked: jails, paying for probation and expanding social services. Jason Pohl, ProPublica, "California Gave Billions in Taxpayer Dollars to Improve Jails. But That’s Not How These Sheriffs Are Spending It.," 28 Dec. 2019 New customer offer: RISK-FREE First Bet (up to $500!) paid in free bets. Ken Pomponio, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans odds, picks and best bets," 27 Dec. 2019 Nail techs across the country have paid their homage to Nipsey with sets that include his face, his lyrics, and the now famous shade of blue that honors him. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "20 Times We Loved How The Late Nipsey Hussle Was Memorialized On Nails In 2019," 27 Dec. 2019 Mandatory independent observers, paid by the trawlers, accompanied the vessels and hand-counted their haul. Gillian Flaccus, The Denver Post, "West Coast fishery rebounds in rare conservation “home run”," 26 Dec. 2019 Few record stores stocked much older Christmas music, and terrestrial radio doesn’t pay to use recordings in the United States. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, "The Endless Green of 'White Christmas' & Other Holiday Hits," 26 Dec. 2019 The Zionsville Redevelopment Commission wants to create a tax increment financing district at Holliday Farms to help pay for walking trails, a pedestrian bridge, and other public infrastructure projects within and around the development. Natalia E. Contreras, Indianapolis Star, "Three developments that will transform U.S. 421 in Zionsville," 24 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In April, the Times reported that 36,000 media workers had been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut; last week alone, another 500 lost their jobs. Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic, "Ronan Farrow Is Not a “Resistance” Journalist," 19 May 2020 Yet even after the pay cut, Rittenmeyer will still rake in over a million dollars in salary. Fortune, "Some CEOs are keeping those massive bonuses—even after cutting thousands of jobs," 18 May 2020 Rival Lyft last month cut 982 jobs, furloughed hundreds of workers and implemented pay cuts. Carolyn Said, SFChronicle.com, "Uber cuts 3,000 more jobs as coronavirus devastates ride-hailing," 18 May 2020 Partners, associates and staff at big firms are taking pay cuts and furloughs. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Minnesota law grads petition Supreme Court to be allowed to practice in Wisconsin without taking bar exam," 16 May 2020 Cristobal's pay cut is 10% and Sumlin's is twice as high. Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral, "Pac-12 coaches Kevin Sumlin, Mario Cristobal understand need for pay cuts," 14 May 2020 Newsom said the pay cuts will also apply to him and his staff. CBS News, "California governor proposes cutting $6.1 billion from state budget as revenue plunges," 14 May 2020 Richey indicated the discussions over any proposed pay cuts won't be well-received if play resumes in some form. Pat Brennan, Cincinnati.com, "FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey responds to plans to restart MLS play, salary-cut talks," 13 May 2020 Since gate receipts reportedly account for anywhere from 30-40% of baseball’s overall revenues, a 50-50 split of revenues from a shortened season with no fans will almost certainly result in a significant pay cut for the players. Sean Gregory, Time, "Major League Baseball Is Planning a Comeback. Here's Why That Won't Be Easy," 13 May 2020

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

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1610, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pay

Verb (1), Noun, and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French paier, from Latin pacare to pacify, from pac-, pax peace

Verb (2)

obsolete French peier, from Latin picare, from pic-, pix pitch — more at pitch

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Time Traveler for pay

Time Traveler

The first known use of pay was in the 13th century

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Statistics for pay

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pay. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for pay



English Language Learners Definition of pay

: money received in exchange for work : money paid to someone for doing work


\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād \; paying

Kids Definition of pay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to give (as money) in return for services received or for something bought Pay the taxi driver. I paid for a ticket.
2 : to give money for (something owed) I have to pay the rent.
3 : to get even with She wants to pay them back for the insult.
4 : to give or offer freely pay a compliment pay attention
5 : to have a worthwhile result : be worth the effort or pains required It pays to drive carefully.
pay off
1 : to give all of what is owed It felt good to pay off a debt.
2 : to have a good result Hours of practice paid off in a successful show.
pay up
: to pay in full especially debts that are due

Other Words from pay

payer noun



Kids Definition of pay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of giving money for something bought or used or for what is owed : payment
2 : salary My mother got an increase in pay.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pay

Spanish Central: Translation of pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about pay

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