verb (1)
\ ˈpā How to pronounce pay (audio) \
paid\ ˈpād How to pronounce pay (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 out paid 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


verb (2)
payed also paid; paying

Definition of pay (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to coat with a waterproof composition

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The project will pay in-lieu fees to the city to build the other 5 percent elsewhere. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 July 2022 In another civil case from 2020, a judge ordered the church and other defendants to pay damages to a woman after members had convinced her that her child’s cancer was caused by familial sins. Ben Dooley,, 23 July 2022 Many of Caan's former costars came forward to pay tribute to him as a performer and a friend, including Al Pacino, who starred alongside Caan in The Godfather. Sara Netzley,, 23 July 2022 In another civil case from 2020, a judge ordered the church and other defendants to pay damages to a woman after members had convinced her that her child’s cancer was caused by familial sins. New York Times, 23 July 2022 The event will also pay tribute to her grandparents, Ben and Mary Rose Dean, who founded the salon. oregonlive, 22 July 2022 The president could suspend offshore oil leases — and pay compensation to the lessees. The Editors, National Review, 22 July 2022 Denzel Washington was on hand on Tuesday to pay special tribute to Jackie Robinson, and Ben Platt sang the National Anthem. Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, 19 July 2022 The stamps pay tribute to the new breed of vehicle that started to appear on American roads during the 1960s. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 18 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Data consists of the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, before taxes and other deductions, including any overtime pay, commissions or tips. Inti Pacheco, WSJ, 26 July 2022 The company, based in Stamford, Conn., also produces pay-per-view and live wrestling events. Stephen Battagliostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 25 July 2022 Indeed, real pay — workers' wages that take inflation into account — suffered its biggest drop in more than two decades between March and May, official data showed this week. Anna Cooban, CNN, 24 July 2022 At first, resignations were being fueled by workers desiring higher pay, better benefits, and more fulfilling work. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 21 July 2022 The price of what is known as the Disney bundle, a broader subscription that encompasses ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu, will not change at present, nor will the current price tag for the UFC pay-per-view events ESPN shows. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 21 July 2022 Last Match pay-per-view begins on July 31 at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET). Mark Heim |, al, 21 July 2022 Hourly pay for non-tipped workers at the Hilton — including housekeepers, stewards and front desk agents — ranges from $19.30 to $20.65. San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 July 2022 In San Francisco, food delivery might soon become a pay-to-play game, despite lawmakers’ best efforts to avoid such a scenario. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 19 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The hope is that CNN+ will serve as a gateway to a post-pay TV world, connecting the brand’s familiar red and white letters to a generation of viewers who are growing up without cable. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2022 The drug is so expensive at the wholesale level that private insurers place it in the highest co-pay categories; some won’t allow doctors to prescribe it without their prior approval, further narrowing patients’ access. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2022 More than 775 people have already signed up for the company's pre-pay membership, Precompose. Eileen Finan,, 17 June 2021 Or an expansion of co-pay coupons to Medicare, where they’re now banned? Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 16 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

29 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for pay


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on pay

Nglish: Translation of pay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pay


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